Potential Portsmouth sporting director role explained - and why it would be be wrong to compare it with Harry Redknapp position under Milan Mandaric

This morning we revealed that Pompey will consider turning to a sporting director as they look to implement the infrastructure to drive the club forward.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 7:30 pm

The position is something the Blues are seriously consider as they look to cement a clear identity and blueprint of what they stand for.

Here, Pompey writer Jordan Cross, who broke the story, explains what a sporting director does and why it’s a route the club are interested in going down.

Q What is a sporting director and who does he do exactly?

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I think sporting director has many terms – technical director, director of football, for example, but I think, broadly speaking, they fall under the same umbrella and they’re becoming increasingly prevalent in the game today at a higher level.

In terms of the way Pompey see it, and probably much of the wider game, I’d say it about implementing a top-down identity, introducing clear ideas about how the club operates within style of play, the DNA of the club and identity – buzz words that you hear a lot in the current climate.

They’re all increasingly falling under the umbrella of a sporting director, along with the roll of identifying players and recruitment.

These, historically, I guess, belong to the manager, who has an overarching interest in all these footballing matters.

Milan Mandaric, right, appointed Harry Redknapp as Pompey director of football in 2001

But now it’s being broken down into different areas and I guess that’s how Pompey will see the role moving forward – if and when they employ a sporting director.

Q Is this a structure the club has been looking to introduce for a while?It’s been coming up more in recent months.

What we’ve been hearing, as journalists, it’s been mooted increasingly and I guess now’s the time is right for Pompey, with the manager being changed, to look at the structure in place.

They’re looking to employ a new academy manager, and perhaps an overhaul of all matters on the football side, so with Kenny Jackett going the time appeared right to look at bringing in a sporting director.

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin

Q Does this explain why Danny Cowley is officially head coach of Pompey rather than the manager?

It’s an obvious connection to make given the title of ‘head coach’ isn’t normally the one that’s afforded at Pompey.

So perhaps that’s no coincidence and it was part of Pompey’s thinking.

No doubt, Danny Cowley’s not concerned about titles or bothered about how to define his role.

Again, the ‘manager’ is perhaps a general term that belongs more historically now.

More fashionably now, the ‘head-coach’ is the man who takes care of first-team affairs with a director of footballing having overarching powers, so perhaps it’s not a coincidence.

Q Pompey have gone down this route before. How has it worked out in the past?

The instances which springs to mind in the past are Harry Redknapp as director of football over Graham Rix – and then also Velimir Zajec, also employed as a director of football, over Redknapp.

Now, in both cases Milan Mandaric was the chairman, and I think it’s fair to say it was perhaps not implemented for the correct reasons ie – the footballing identity and a blueprint for the club.

In the first case, it looked like it was a way of getting Harry Redknapp in as manager-in-waiting, which then occurred.

With Zajec, relations had broken down between Mandaric and Harry at one stage and Velimir came in with Milan knowing full well that Harry, being an old-school manager, would never settle for someone dictating his players.

So I wouldn’t necessarily connect with what happened at Pompey in the past with what this role would entail now.

Q What are the benefits of a sporting director?

Speaking to people about the role, people who know a lot more about football than I do, they see a technical director/sporting director as someone who can deliver the identity, that blueprint of the club from the top down.

Now, Pompey are looking to employ people in different roles at the moment and implementing the footballing DNA of the club comes up in the job specification.

Quite rightly, people ask the question: how can they do that when there hasn’t been a clear, semi-clear identity for the club?

That has to come from the top.

Now, chief executive Mark Catlin would counter that argument with the fact that Pompey’s identity at the moment is a winning approach – that’s the one that matters most.

But naturally, and Mark acknowledges that a clear footballing philosophy across the club has its merits.

That’s something that would fall under the remit of the sporting director, so from the academy upwards – a clear, concise approach that would see them bring in the right coaches to implement it.

He’d back that approach as the one moving forward – again, something that a sporting director would implement.

Q Who takes the blame if it doesn’t translate into results on the pitch – the head coach or the sporting director?

History is a great predictor of future behaviour, and, invariably, it’s the head coach who gets the bullet if results aren’t to the required level.

With sporting directors often being less of the public face of the footballing side of the club, they’re more likely to be spared and it’s the coach who gets the chop when results aren’t being delivered on the pitch

But, of course, there are examples of the sporting director leaving if the club is not perceived to be moving in the right direction.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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