‘The manager’ is very much a feature of British football and to be fair, it’s what I’m most accustomed to.
But at one stage of my career I had the chance to work in the sort of set-up which Massimo Cellino seems to be pushing for at Leeds United.
When I was at Vancouver, Johnny Giles was our manager. Or, more accurately, our coach. The North American leagues adopted that model a long time ago and I know for a fact that Johnny was a fan of it.
His responsibility was to coach the team, get us fit and implement the tactics. He never had to worry about the things that English-based managers tend to get bogged down in – contracts, finances, all that sort of stuff.
Gilesy had been the boss of West Bromwich Albion before going out to Canada and he used to say that his job over there involved none of the stress he experienced at West Brom. He was able to concentrate on the thing he liked best – football. The business side of the club was a matter for other people. So as someone who has experienced the head coach structure, I can certainly see how it would work at Leeds. The key for me isn’t the amount of authority a coach or a manager has, it’s the structure around him and the support he gets. You’d always want a say in which players your club sign but at the same time, you wouldn’t object if the chasing and the negotiating fell entirely to someone else.
I get the impression that under Cellino, the coach of Leeds will be an out-and-out coach. In other words, his responsibility will be solely about preparing the team for each and every game. It’s a change for all of us and I think we have to accept that we’re going to have to get used to very different methods at Elland Road. I’m happy to embrace them.
For starters, I’ve got no problem at all with us having a foreign coach. The influx of foreign players into England and the changes we’ve seen in the English game make it a pretty comfortable environment for coaches from abroad.
The Premier League’s seen far more of that than the Championship but the trend is starting to gather pace in the Championship too.
We associate continental teams with a passing game and I’d like to think we’ll get that at Elland Road next season. I’m making no predictions at all about how well we’ll do because I still think there’s so much to sort out but if the year ahead is going to be very transitional, it’ll help everyone if the football we’re watching is attractive and creative.
My feeling with Brian McDermott was that a decision about him had to be made. I like Brian, he’s a good guy, but the club were in limbo for as long as it remained to be seen whether him and Cellino would agree to work together.
The one thing you know about Cellino is that the person who comes in as coach has to be able to accept his ways and his orders. In a sense I suppose that’s true of any owner – they call the shots at the end of the day – but Cellino makes no secret of the fact that he’s in charge, the head of the club.
I’ve no inkling as to who will come in as our next coach and like everyone else I’ll be fascinated to see who we get. It’s a very important appointment because you can’t ignore the fact that last season became a bit of a struggle towards the end.
I know it’s in Cellino’s mind to get promoted in a couple of years but before that happens, everything needs to stabilise. The problems of last season – the weaknesses and the failings – need to be eradicated by hard work and new signings.
My guess would be that Cellino will want his new coach on board before the players return for pre-season training on June 26.
It’s an obvious deadline and I personally feel it’s crucial for the next man to get into the club as soon as possible and start acclimatising to the place.
No matter what Cellino says about his authority, the coach is still the man who stands on the touchline and gets a lot of the attention when the team’s on the field. Running the first-team squad at Leeds is a great job but an extremely tough one too and anyone coming in needs time to get some understanding of the intensity, the expectation and the history they’re inheriting.
Beyond that, they also need time to get transfers through the door because there’s no doubt at all that changes to the team are essential. We fell an awful long way short of the play-offs last season and for all the problems off the pitch, I don’t believe we were anywhere near good enough on it.
That’s the bottom line for me. We’ve had a lot of instability recently but at the same time, we haven’t got things right on the pitch either.
Dealing with the off-field matters is Cellino’s business. I don’t think it’ll be a bad thing at all if the man he chooses to replace Brian McDermott is allowed to focus on football and only that. It would certainly make a nice change.