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Utilising a Director of Football | Wednesday Wisdom

The Director of Football (DoF) may seem like a role which merely gets in the way, someone who takes tasks out of the manager’s hands. But, more recently we’ve seen many examples of a DoF working alongside a manager to propel the club forward; helping a manager to make key decisions and allowing them to focus more on tactics and team selection. 

While DoFs in the real world are increasingly commonplace, they are still perhaps underappreciated and underutilised in Football Manager.

In FM, if you’re not utilising a DoF you’re, potentially, not becoming the best boss you can be. Here’s how they can help and why you should seriously think about employing one. With words of advice from commentator, journalist and avid FM fan, Michael McCann

Utilising a Director of Football | Wednesday Wisdom

Where did the role come from? 

The Director of Football originated in European football as a broad link between a club’s manager and board. The role was popularised in the 1990s, with PSV Eindhoven providing a notable early example.

At PSV, Frank Arnesen moved from his role as Assistant Manager to assume the newly created post, acting as DoF from 1994-2004. During that time, he was responsible for transfers, scouting, talent spotting and the club’s wider infrastructure. 

Frank Arnesen FM20 profile

Part of Arnesen’s method of attracting players was an understanding, agreed with PSV’s owners, that they wouldn’t be stopped from leaving for greener pastures if the right offer came in  – a feature replicated in FM20’s Club Vision with the ‘treat club as a stepping stone’ promise in contract discussions. As a result, many of PSV’s stars in that era went on to have major success at other European clubs.

In Football Manager, utilising a DoF allows the manager to focus more on the first team. In-game, your DoF can have a particularly strong influence on player recruitment, contract negotiations and staff management, although the extent of that influence is entirely up to you. 

The DoF’s role is to make decisions or offer advice across all areas of the club. For example, suggesting a player who may be worth recalling from a loan spell or informing you that a player is likely to want a new contract before that player approaches you. The DoF may even unearth the next hidden gem. 

What should they look like? 

With so many tasks within the role’s remit, what attributes does a DoF need to be successful? 

Watford FM20 staff search

The way I configure the role, Judging Player Ability and Potential and Negotiating are three of the most important. The first two determine the accuracy of their ability to judge what new signings could offer, not just now, but also in the future. You do, of course, have your scout’s help with these two, but as the nominated head of your recruitment department, it is vital you can trust the DoF as your right-hand man in this area. 

Negotiation is also an important attribute so you can trust them with agreeing new player and staff contracts, should you need them to step in. You should look for strong Adaptability, particularly if they are coming into a new nation and/or league and also a high degree of competence in Judging Staff Ability. 

How should we use them? 

The level of interaction with your DoF depends on how you customise your game. A well-oiled link to your DoF is one of your most important staff relationships. Customising the role is easy: head to staff, then responsibilities and you can choose just how much or little they (and your other staff) affect. 

The buck stops with you, of course, but you can choose how much to hand over to others. It's about playing around with the things you're likely to miss or lose track of. Once you’ve decided what you want to delegate, you can then customise how often the DoF provides you with the relevant reports.

One way I like to use my DoF is to ask them to recommend transfer targets specific to my requirements. I provide them with a brief (transfer, loan, end of contract, free transfer etc.), a budget and some role and position specifics before then getting my scouts to run the rule over the recommended players.

Getting your DoF set up to assist you is vital to your overall operation as a manager. You must ensure they take the responsibilities that you want to delegate so you can focus on what’s important for you. 

Your relationship with all staff, but most importantly your DoF, should change over time as you tweak responsibilities depending on how you find yourself approaching management. It is a good idea, if you are a new player, to delegate many aspects at the start of your career, before taking more on board as you adapt and learn - the DoF is crucial to this process. 

Final thoughts

Hopefully, that sheds a light on the history of the DoF role, the uses a successful one can have in FM and how maximising your relationship with them can improve your overall game experience.