At the top of the football food chain, Erling Haaland was this season’s must-have accessory. If you were not already aware of his work, you probably are now after his brace in the Champions League this week. He’s essentially a deluxe Andreas Cornelius…
Anyway, the expectation was that he would depart Red Bull Salzburg and end up with his mentor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United, but instead opted for Borussia Dortmund. Haaland’s reasoning for his choice was interesting.
Dortmund apparently launched a full charm offensive over a series of meetings with their CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc. They sold the club by outlining clear plans for his future development and role within the team, highlighting their track record of developing young talent.
This was all executed at board level, with no mention of the manager, which makes sense when the club’s ethos is king. The manager is only passing through after all.
It made me think about Cardiff and why anyone would choose them over any of their rivals. Mehmet Dalman is a very charismatic guy, but he’s not a football guy. His background is in business, so too Ken Choo and Vincent Tan. The vacuum of football knowledge and expertise at board level is well documented and bemoaned, but the lack of direction is also apparent.
There is no through line. Cardiff have a prime location, large catchment area, a great stadium, a good squad and an established academy, but what do they stand for? A Director of football would certainly help in this regard.
It is a massive role and there is no one way to do it. The right choice is therefore vitally important, but who could do it? Below are four candidates that could be worth considering.
The obvious choice – Stephen McPhail
The name usually floated with this currently imaginary position is Stephen McPhail because he’s already doing it. Having returned to Ireland to turn out for Shamrock Rovers, he played for a couple of seasons before retiring, when he was promptly offered the role of sporting director there.
As Stephen told VFTN recently, his role involves working closely with the head coach and is the link between him and the board. He also handles transfers and was given a clean slate when he started, as a new squad and style of play were implemented. Having spent seven years with Cardiff, McPhail, who just turned 40, knows the club as well as anyone and could hit the ground running.
The wheeler-dealer – Dave Jones
At a time when people (rightly) think that the club are not bold enough in their transfer targets, Dave Jones was the man responsible for putting together one of the most exciting sides in Cardiff’s recent history. Craig Bellamy, Michael Chopra, Peter Whittingham, Jason Koumas and Jay Bothroyd all arrived on his watch. He never quite got them over the line, but it was great fun while it lasted.
He has been doing this sort of position at Bury, where he is a club consultant for Paul Wilkinson, who was one of his assistants at Cardiff. Ironically, Peter Ridsdale, who was Jones’ boss at Cardiff, holds a similar post at Preston, who have proved shrewd operators in recent years. Jones never really had much in the way of spending money and made a little go a long way. I always wondered what he could achieve with a few bob, so maybe its time we found out?
The icon – Robert Earnshaw
Most clubs have visible ambassadors, but Cardiff do not and that has always struck me as a mistake with an easy fix. A Danny Gabbidon or a Peter Whittingham around the place would go a long way, helping create a sense of community and continuity. Robert Earnshaw would definitely fit in that category, but maybe it would be worth going one further with him.
Earnshaw is a charismatic, ambitious guy and an original thinker with a thirst for knowledge. Having closed a brilliant playing career, he has gone on to work as a youth coach with the Vancouver Whitecaps before being named as an assistant coach at USL outfit Fresno FC.
Available once again, he was recently linked with a role in Cardiff’s academy, but maybe they should consider installing him at board level instead. Earnshaw’s standing in the game is matched by his affection for the club where he made his name and he would certainly be an ambitious asset.
The gold standard – Osian Roberts
Surely the dream scenario. The former technical director of the Welsh national set-up, Roberts masterminded a golden era. The former Porthmadog manager oversaw the Under-16’s up and had them all marching to the beat of his drum. He was eventually promoted to Chris Coleman’s assistant and qualification ensued.
Giggs was chosen ahead of Roberts when Coleman departed (yeah, I know) and he soon departed the set-up. Currently a technical director for the Morocco Football Federation, where he was seemingly given full control and a blank cheque. He’s only been in the post since August, so tempting him back may prove difficult, even if the club were able to afford him and willing to hand over the sort of control that he would likely expect.
With close links to Dragon Park, the national football development centre in Newport, which is on the club’s doorstep, and a proven track record, Roberts represents a unique opportunity that the club would be daft not to investigate.