I've not really given my opinion on the whole McInnes situation as, whilst he's pretty uninspiring, I think he's only a small part of the problem. The continual hiring and firing of average managers is a constant at Pittodrie; embarrassingly, it's the only thing that has any real continuity at our club.
I think McInnes is on a shaky wicket before he starts, not because of his own track record, but because he's joining a club that appears to have little organisation or structure on the football side. McInnes's own appraisal of his success at St Johnstone was down to his excellent relationship with the chairman, Geoff Brown.
The clamour for Derek Adams was based on the assumption that we’d get his dad too. Apparent from the years of sacked and failed appointments is that we miss that intermediary between first team manager (and the role should be just: first team manager) and board level.
That organiser and architect of football strategy that allows one failed manager flow seamlessly to the next – or perhaps not fail at all. This is the role we should have been looking to fill for the last 6 months and recruited in a hurry upon Brown’s departure (employing him during the tenure may just have caused unnecessary stress). The next three months should have been spent shaping the football department, with the final piece coming in the form of the first team manager. There are few stars in our team that required re-signing in haste. If there was, then this would be obvious to anyone with an ounce of football knowledge – it doesn’t require the first team manager’s say so.
I see the football department as a support base for the first team manager, with the first team manager being somewhere in the middle as opposed to the top in the current UK style, like this:
Football Department Manager
This role is the continuity, the one that sets the standards from league position expectation, the style of play (within reason), levels of fitness required, the expectation in attitude and professionalism of the manager and players, as well as instilling the 'Aberdeenness' of the team, i.e. what it means to play for Aberdeen, the intimate knowledge of what the fans want or more importantly don’t want to hear.
He has ultimate responsibility for a failure of the system and needs to keep up to date with the changes in style of play in football (football styles appear to be cyclical) and ensuring that the system continues from the youngest of youth to oldest of management. Most importantly the football department manager has to take the pressure off the manager. To act as a go-between, or facilitator, for finding players or promoting youth allowing the manager to focus solely on the 20-25 players in his first team squad.
The scouting department should have two specific functions. The identification of players that have been 'requisitioned' by the first team manager (the manager has to be specific about the type of player he wants – i.e. defensive midfielder, good in the air, etc), as over the years we appear to have brought in too many 'utility' players who appear to have been sourced on a whim.
A smaller section of the department should be used to source investments – i.e. good available players who would enhance our squad and may bring in future re-sale revenue. The scouting department should identify the best target and then hand them over to the first team manager and football department manager to study and then approach if impressed.
A review of league salaries should be done to ensure that we’re not looking at championship players who are well out of our price range, or could be 'persuaded to take a pay-cut' - many clubs have picked up less expensive players on their way up, rather than pay more for someone on their way down (or have failed in their division).
Fitness and Wellbeing
I find it strange when a new manager comes in and says the team he has inherited is unfit and then proceeds to change the training rituals to his own system. A player’s general fitness should never be in question, regardless of manager, and the system should be agnostic to the person in charge.
Training should suit individual players based on their ability to withstand it. It should be designed by competent professionals and not some task-master with a few coaching badges (I do believe there should be an element of training taken by the first team manager to instil camaraderie and respect for the manager). Not only does there need to be a minimum standard of fitness at the club, there has to be a general promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
The young kids at our club, and their Nandos-based existence, need educating in the understanding and preparation of healthy foods. It’s no use just feeding them a balanced and healthy diet at work if they don’t: understand the benefits, understand how to control it and understand how to maintain that diet out with their place of work. The club has a responsibility to both the players who make the first team and those who resume their career elsewhere.
Educating the children coming through our system will not only serve them well through their playing career, but once they’ve retired too. The fitness and well-being department should also place a large focus on their staff’s mental health too. Fitba is a difficult game if you’re not getting a start or if you’re away from family.
Youth Team Department
The Dons are presently very good at producing young talent and this should continue. They have already separated the youth team from the first team squad and I think has proved beneficial. The lack of interference from the first team manager is good, but his attendance at games is also valuable.
We seem to have a problem in player retention, which I believe is down to the perception of a player’s responsibility to his club and his team mates. As part of the player signing for the club there should be an implicit agreement that the club looks after its player, with the player doing the same in return. This has to be drilled into them at a young age, and also has to be acted upon by Aberdeen. When we throw youngsters on the scrap heap at 17 if they’re not good enough, why should we expect any different in return?
Part of our education of the youths should be surrounding loyalty. Many of our youngsters will not make the grade. AFC should seek to give these youngsters assistance if they don’t make the grade by arranging a smooth transition from the club, either to another club or to another form of employment. They should maintain contact with the player and look to assist in future development where possible.
Football is about word of mouth and players can sometimes improve in later years. We need to ensure that AFC is regarded as a place that youngsters will be looked after and are treated with respect. Only if we take this approach can we expect the same in return. By explaining to young players that their responsibility lies not only to AFC, but their current teammates and predecessors, we should expect to see a better return on investment.
Additionally, youth players should be educated in financial advice. Players are swayed too easily by the call of an agent. Allowing a player to be responsible for his own finances ensures that only they can decide their future. Persuading them towards a financial advisor (if only we had a current club captain who could assist with this...) rather than agent, but more importantly giving themselves the responsibility and ability to understand their financial situation will hopefully assist player retention.
First Team Manager
The idea behind this strategy/set-up is to relieve the First Team Manager of many of his duties. The days of the manager doing everything and working 15 hours a day to keep up with that should be behind us. There is nothing useful, or indeed impressive, about a manager working all hours of the day on tasks that could be supported by his colleagues. Allow him to focus on just the first team management, and we should reap the benefits. I’ve deliberately positioned him below the rest of the department as I feel that the continuity of the other areas is the key.
I don’t believe a manager should waltz in and stamp his own training regimes on an already fit squad. Instead he should work with the fitness department to try and incorporate some of his own systems where he feels they will be beneficial (or even more fun) without harming the continuity of a players’ development.
Having a manager running up and down the country taking in other games is only useful if we’re about to play that team – he’ not a scout, that gets delegated.
In short, he allows the established departments to do what they’re best so he can focus on his challenges. Any grievances get taken up by the Football Department Manager who can suggest improvements or make changes where appropriate – all within the system and process of the club. The first team manager would obviously also have his own team, who should also be able to call on the support departments when required.
In conclusion, I think the signing of McInnes isn’t the problem. The lack of structure and strategy at AFC appears to be more of an issue. I believe that the first team manager should sit lower in the hierarchy than it currently does and should be separated from its supporting parts, which should have the authority to implement those systems that they’re qualified to oversee. I believe it is backward to appoint a first team manager and then a senior team above him as this will cause unrequired stress.
I think any success that McInnes has will be temporary, but I don’t believe that it will be his fault. I had hoped that the next few months would have seen us sort out our internal strategy and team, however this has not transpired. I haven’t mentioned the plethora of other support that should be provided, from administration to video editing, but essentially the manager should have everything on his plate without having to ask.
I hope McInnes has the ability to control the whole footballing department, as some of the best managers can. However I believe we have a better chance by promoting stability within first, regardless of manager, leaving the first team manager with a clear set of tasks and goals.
Or I could be spikkin shite again.