Ex-SPL chief Roger Mitchell gets it right on Celtic manager hunt, Director of Football

By Euan Davidson

April 8, 2021

I can’t imagine I’m on the Roger Mitchell Christmas Card list.

After all, when the former SPL chief spoke about Celtic supporters back in December, we here at 67 Hail Hail decided that he was talking nonsense. His rather extreme opinions tend to divide both media and supporters down the middle. For example, after Hoops fans enjoyed Rangers being knocked out of the Betfred Cup, he called it “Mickey Mouse loserville stuff”.

So, we’ll hold our acclaim a little, here. But, with his latest comments, he’s actually right. As Eddie Howe stories emerged over the last week or so, it seemed clear that the ex-Bournemouth man wanted to pick the Director of Football. It’s a little unorthodox, to say the least. Directors are meant to appoint managers, not the other way round.

In terms of long-term board activity, it’s a DoF who is meant to last longer than any manager. Their vision for the club, how football should be played and the focus of recruitment is, after all, their agenda. Not being mates with the dugout incumbent at any given time.

Mitchell, in quotes attributed to the Daily Record, said:

“UK football has such an issue with the Director of football role.

“This person is misunderstood as a ‘contracts guy’, as a ‘player identification guy’. Even part of the staff of the manager. Often his mate. Nonsense.

“This is understandable given our history with dynasty ‘managers’ like Stein, Shankly, Busby, Clough and Ferguson.

“Those days have gone. European football has never had such issues. They don’t have managers, but mere coaches or trainers who report 100 per cent to a DOF.

A rare example of a DoF in the UK: Leeds’ Victor Orta (right) / (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Roger Mitchell is actually right: the Director of Football role is massively misunderstood

Mitchell continued:

“It is essential that a ‘manager’ is controlled in the European way.”

“The club must have a strategy and structure beyond the current guy and his cabal. Especially around player recruitment, playing style, and data.

“First question to any candidate for quick filtering should be ‘do you consider yourself a manager or a head coach?’.

“UK fans don’t get this at all. They crave the manager.”

This’ll be unpopular, and read as anti-Eddie Howe sentiment. It isn’t, necessarily. But what the ex-SPL man is saying is actually bang on. We have a misapprehension about what a Director of Football does. Our only real experience with a DoF is Kenny Dalglish, during the ill-fated John Barnes era.

In Europe, Directors tend to inform the whole football culture at the club. That’s not British football orthodoxy. We are, indeed, used to the all-seeing manager in charge of everything. Even as recently as Brendan Rodgers, we had a manager who was purportedly in charge of the culture at the club, from the tactics to the Academy.

That relationship fell apart not just because of Leicester City’s interest, but because Rodgers felt the board weren’t moving in the correct direction. It became clear that transfer policy at Celtic was a confused and staggered process. With a Director of Football in place, the hierarchy is much more coherent.

It’s a kind of structure exists much more commonly in European football.

Roger Mitchell is right, albeit he gets his point across in combative style.

You could read it as another attack on supporters if you choose, but he’s not wrong about how these things work.

READ MORE: After last night, what do we know about the non-Howe candidates for the Celtic job?