Vital Latics member Pete Reece, aka Noel Wards Leg, takes a look at the recruiting process that we are currently embroiled in looking for our new boss and he asks, is it the right way to go about the task? Over to you Pete:
As marathons go, interviewing fifteen people for the manager’s job at Wigan Athletic is right up there with New York and London. Breathtaking in scale and exhausting in practice. Do I believe that it’s true? Not a word of it but given that Uncle Dave has obviously done things a little differently to how they are normally done in football, then he deserves some credit.
Let’s face it, at most clubs most of the time, it’s a case of ‘Who’s doing well at the moment? Let’s get them in for a chat.’ Done and dusted.
Inviting applications and interviewing more than one person is at least approaching the normality that most of us face when applying for jobs or recruiting people for employment. Once again, just as with the way that a manager walks in and immediately starts discarding staff and players in order to work with people he already knows, the football industry thinks that the modus operandi of the rest of the world doesn’t apply to it.
By any standards, the role of team manager at a football club is an important position, meaning huge responsibility and commanding large rewards. It’s not a job for the faint hearted as we who shout for managers’ heads know well. So if Ford or British Gas were recruiting for a £1m a year job what steps would their boards be taking to recruit the best possible person? It’s safe to say that they would be using the expertise of their own human resources departments and probably expert help from outside too.
The former draws up a job description and person specification, puts together a recruitment pack which tells prospective employees about the job and the organization and works on an induction programme which goes beyond where the toilets are located. (Not needed in football? No, of course, football is different.) Head hunters or recruitment consultants earn colossal sums every year because of the value they bring in finding the right people for organizations. No need for them in football though is there because what would they know about football?
Once you’ve got people to apply, how do you assess who fits the bill enough to invite them for interview? What is the person’s ability like to work with a wide range of people, from the board, through players, to the fans and media? Not important is it when they’re clearly doing well at their current club. And it’s not like a manager has ever lost his job for not getting on with people is it Roberto Mancini?
What about the tests that a prospective Chief Executive would undergo at a large company, for example to test their ability to work under pressure or make decisions? Not necessary in football, since those skills wouldn’t be expected of a manager would they? And when it comes to the skills unique to football does the analysis go very deep?
What comparison takes place between candidates as to their success in spending previous clubs’ money in the transfer market? How successfully did they work with the budgets they were given? How good has he been at working with players who don’t speak English and at integrating players from other cultures?
There are so many boxes to tick but do these questions really get asked? Is their past experience looked at in that amount of detail?
Many clubs now assess potential playing recruits on a continuous basis and should they wish to sell one of their current squad they have a list of, say, three players that they have been monitoring for a year or two who they are immediately ready to move on. When a manager leaves time is of the essence. Just as with players, a professionally run club should be ready to move quickly with lots of information at their disposal to make the right choice. I don’t believe that Wigan Athletic is the worst in this respect but just as with most clubs they have an awful lot to learn about best practice in recruitment when they are looking for the most important employee at the club.
Noel Wards Leg