It’s been a manic day with rehearsals for a new project, podcast, a return to my ‘proper’ job and putting together clickbait for the Real EFL.
It’s been so busy that I almost omitted to return to my labour of love, the site that gave me my chance at being a writer. That’s this one, in case you didn’t know. That’s why, at 8.30pm, instead of chilling with a beer and my PlayStation, I’m reacting to yesterday’s news. You see, City made a signing yesterday, but not one that will directly influence our fortunes on a matchday. Instead, we secured our Director of Football on a long-term deal, looking to impact wider aspects within the club over the next few years.
I think there tends to be a distrust of shadowy figures in the background at football clubs as if everything and everyone has to be front and centre, accessible and transparent. Much of Jez’s work is behind the scenes, liaising with other clubs and building the infrastructure that will help keep us in the level to which we are becoming accustomed. Some of his work may not bear fruit immediately, such as that with the academy, but the long term aim is 9i’m sure) to produce players with the regularity of Crewe, and for our signings to earn profit like Oxford and Peterborough. That doesn’t happen purely with the manager, it happens when a club’s culture is set up right and in Jez, we have someone the club feel is doing the things we need.
He isn’t always in the limelight, but if you have too many faces on screen in blurs the message a little. I have a case point; back in the early days of promotion from the Football League, I attended a meeting where one member of the board delivered a message that the club manager had not discussed or endorsed about Sean Raggett. As alternative media, I reported that revelation and it caused a little controversy at the time. If you have a permanently visible DoF, a vocal manager and other key members speaking in the news all of the time, that can happen. That’s why I feel Jez’s accessibility is just right. He isn’t completely absent, but you won’t hear from him daily on every subject.
One of my fears with a DoF is undermining the manager, but we’ve done it the right way, having a manager in place with a working relationship already intact before the DoF is announced. Jez and Michael clearly already work well together, given the quality of signings we’ve made over the summer, so to ensure that relationship can continue to grow is a move that should be welcomed.
I’m not just being a happy-clapper here, I just believe that not all of the business a club does needs to be on the pitch. I personally have only met Jez once, whilst he was at Cambridge when he walked from their ground to ours for charity ahead of an April 2013 (I think) fixture. In his capacity as Head of Football and now Director of Football here, I’ve never spoken to him directly. He’s been in the odd presser I’ve done, he sat behind me when I was in the press box once, but I’ve had no occasion to interact with him directly. I’m not waxing lyrical about someone I have a personal relationship here, in fact this is probably the most impartial I can be about an existing member of staff.
I know people at the club rate Jez very highly and the structure and ambition we have has been mentioned by many of the new signings. Jez is very involved not only in our recruitment but also the youth setup which has seemingly begun to produce players that might just go on to bigger and better things. However, it isn’t a job that starts and ends, it is one that constantly evolves and requires someone of standing to oversee it.
For those who do not know, Jez had a role at Cambridge United for many years, including team manager. He was also manager of Cambridge Regional College, and did lots of work around financing youth football, specifically lobbying against the loss of funding for youth academies when a side is relegated from the Football League. He is a hybrid of football person and businessman, which is a great mix for a DoF. I do think him signing a new deal with us is good news for the structure and future direction of the club, particularly around the youth setup, but also for the reach he has into wider areas within the club.