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Les Ferdinand On The Reality Of Being A Director Of Football

Les Ferdinand On The Reality Of Being A Director Of Football

An interview with Les Ferdinand, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You were an esteemed player at clubs such as QPR, Tottenham and Newcastle whilst also representing England at senior international level. You then moved from playing to becoming a Director of Football at QPR. How did that transition occur?

“The transition happened following retirement when I took up coaching at Tottenham after I earned my coaching badges.

“I also did some media work and combined that with coaching at Spurs with the youth teams then under Harry Redknapp.

“While I was doing that, I thought carefully about becoming a manager and ultimately concluded that I did not want to go down that path as it is a precarious job in the current era of football.

“Not too many former players move from playing into the Director of football role, and I felt that former players could excel in that role given their experiences within the game. So that motivated me to pursue my qualifications in that particular field.

“I studied a course in applied management towards the end of my playing career at Warwick University. The experience of studying at Warwick gave me a strong indication of what it would be like to go into a directorial role within football, and from there I pursued opportunities to further develop myself in that field upon retirement.”

In your experience as a director of football, what does the role entail on a daily basis at a football club?

“The role is multi-faceted and requires dedication due to the level of detail you are responsible for within a club.

“I studied on a CPD course at the FA with other sporting directors and it became apparent quickly within our meetings that the role means different things at different football clubs depending on the directive that comes from the ownership of a club.

“Player recruitment is the thing that many fans immediately associate with the role and that does play a part as you are involved in negotiations with players and their representatives and in discussions with your manager as to the type of players he wants to pursue.

“In my experience at QPR, recruitment is part of my role but we also have a dedicated scouting team and a head of recruitment employee who go out and find the players we require.

“If the scouting department and the head of recruitment agree on a player then it comes to the manager and myself for the final say.

“My job is to present the manager with four or five options in a given position and work with him to pinpoint the one he wants for the football club.

“I do not pick the players for the manager in my role. The manager has to be heavily involved in the process and it is my job to liaise with him to work together on securing the right players to progress the football club in the right direction.

“Aside from recruitment, the youth academy is also part of my remit and I have revamped the structure at the club over the years in the academy at QPR with the aim of creating a realistic pathway at the club for our young players.

“Working with the medical and sports science teams is also a crucial aspect of my role so that I have a clear understanding of what is going on in all aspects of the club in regards to the playing staff.”

In your role, you mention working with the manager as being a key component of your job. How do you personally go about doing that?

“It’s a partnership approach. The manager has to work in harmony with the director of football at any club and that is my aim as a Director of Football.

“We have to support one another.

“Being at loggerheads would make things chaotic however, we do not have to agree on everything as debate is healthy within any organisation that is striving to make progress.

“Mutual respect is at the heart of that relationship and I want to support any manager that I work with in order for them to have the best possible chance of success for the football club.

“Success and progression is the ultimate aim for me and for the manager. His role is to get results on a Saturday and my role is to look at the club in a holistic manner to try and ensure that all aspects of the club are in good shape to give him the opportunity to do that.”

Last but not least, specialised coaches such as set-piece coaches have come into the game more and more over the last decade. In your role, is this something that you see as a positive development and something that will continue in the years to come? 

“I see it as a positive because you want to give the team the best chance of success. We can learn from different sports and specialised coaches have been prevalent in the NFL, as an example, for many years.

“It is important that football learns from other sports too and is not focused on being insular and only thinking of what has come before.

“As a Director of Football, you need to consider everything that could help strengthen your club and that is what I have always looked to do.

“I am always looking to continually learn and develop in my role too because you can always learn from others within your sport or from other sports or sectors of society too.”