Oxford United chairman spells out the way ahead

United chairman Ian Lenagan

United chairman Ian Lenagan

First published in Sport The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Editor. Call me on 01865 425451

AROUND a third of the people interested in the Oxford United manager’s job would like a ‘director of football’ role at the club.

U’s chairman Ian Lenagan revealed last week that he had received more than 50 applications within five days of Chris Wilder leaving to join Northampton Town.

That figure has since risen, with many enquiring about a position ‘above’ the manager.

It is something Lenagan admits is a possibility, although he was keen to stress that he is very open-minded on the route he will go down.

“I would say we would be odds-on to be in at least the play-offs, with a good chance to get into the automatic promotion places,” he said.

“Because of the fact we are within spitting distance of promotion, the interest in the Oxford United job is much greater than in the past.

“We need to make decisions as to what the structure is.”

Lenagan also owns rugby league club Wigan Warriors and there has Kris Radlinski working above the head coach, Shaun Wane.

It is an approach that could be implemented by Oxford United.

“I do not like the title director of football, because it has been demeaned by some poor appointments and the way it has been done,” Lenagan said.

“I prefer the title sporting director because that’s the continental title that accurately reflects what that person does.

“The sporting director delivers the vision across the whole club. He doesn’t do coaching, team selection and suchlike, the head coach – or whatever his title – does that.”

He added: “At Wigan, I have got a director of rugby and a head coach and it works like an absolute dream.

“I wouldn’t mind such a structure at Oxford, because how are we going to make sure that the development squad and academy squad and the vision we have for the whole of Oxford United is delivered across the whole club?

“If you were to ask me if I had the ideal structure in mind, it would be that. But whether we can afford it depends on the cost of such a person and the head coach themselves.

“It could be either of those. If I favour anything, it is the head coach with another person. But I am not presupposing that.

“It is interesting, however, that around a third of the applicants are to do with that strategy.”

Comments (6)

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12:36pm Thu 6 Feb 14

South Upper 87 says...

The best pair of hands our club has been for many, many years...I suspect the reason so many fans were unsure of Ian Lenagan is because he liked to stay in the background. With recent circumstances he has had to propel himself to the front. What we hear from him now just cannot be argued with, you just can see why he is such a successful businessman and professional Rugby Club owner. Long may it continue.
The best pair of hands our club has been for many, many years...I suspect the reason so many fans were unsure of Ian Lenagan is because he liked to stay in the background. With recent circumstances he has had to propel himself to the front. What we hear from him now just cannot be argued with, you just can see why he is such a successful businessman and professional Rugby Club owner. Long may it continue. South Upper 87
  • Score: 29

1:51pm Thu 6 Feb 14

AylesburyOx says...

I absolutely trust Ian 100%, he's a man of great business acumen and has fantastic people skills. However I would like to say that football isn't rugby and people have been trying for decades to instil ideas from different sports into the game - Liverpool trying a moneyball system and Southamptons appointment of Sir Clive Woodward both ended in failure because football is a supertanker to turn and everyone in the game is suspicious of change.

If Ian Lenagan whats to see his vision materialise then he must be prepared to invest decades rather than years of his life in the club.

Oh and if you're after another example, Dario Gradi joined Crewe as a manager in 1983, one of his first ambitions was to be able to field a starting 11 entirely made up of youth team (Academy) graduates. It wasn't until April 2013, 30 years later and nearly 2 years after Gradi stepped down as manager were they finally able to do so.
I absolutely trust Ian 100%, he's a man of great business acumen and has fantastic people skills. However I would like to say that football isn't rugby and people have been trying for decades to instil ideas from different sports into the game - Liverpool trying a moneyball system and Southamptons appointment of Sir Clive Woodward both ended in failure because football is a supertanker to turn and everyone in the game is suspicious of change. If Ian Lenagan whats to see his vision materialise then he must be prepared to invest decades rather than years of his life in the club. Oh and if you're after another example, Dario Gradi joined Crewe as a manager in 1983, one of his first ambitions was to be able to field a starting 11 entirely made up of youth team (Academy) graduates. It wasn't until April 2013, 30 years later and nearly 2 years after Gradi stepped down as manager were they finally able to do so. AylesburyOx
  • Score: 9

2:32pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Taff Ewe says...

I am not aware of a situation where a sporting director/etc has ever worked in football long term. They always end up wanting to get involved in the football side of things or realise that they cannot handle being the main man.

I think that the only way that it could work is if you have someone who has never been a manager or never wants to be a manager. They have to believe in that role and have trained/qualified for that role specifically. Not management.
I am not aware of a situation where a sporting director/etc has ever worked in football long term. They always end up wanting to get involved in the football side of things or realise that they cannot handle being the main man. I think that the only way that it could work is if you have someone who has never been a manager or never wants to be a manager. They have to believe in that role and have trained/qualified for that role specifically. Not management. Taff Ewe
  • Score: 5

4:01pm Thu 6 Feb 14

bigchet says...

dont think that a club of our size needs a sporting director and feel that we have enough backroom staff all of which seem to be doing a good job. us old stagers can remember when arthur turner and ken fish used to do it all and though i realise that the game has moved on from those days but in spite of the game being much more physical in those days there did not seem to be such long term injuries which is a bit of a puzzle.
dont think that a club of our size needs a sporting director and feel that we have enough backroom staff all of which seem to be doing a good job. us old stagers can remember when arthur turner and ken fish used to do it all and though i realise that the game has moved on from those days but in spite of the game being much more physical in those days there did not seem to be such long term injuries which is a bit of a puzzle. bigchet
  • Score: 2

7:48pm Thu 6 Feb 14

Roy Burton's shorts says...

South Upper 87 wrote:
The best pair of hands our club has been for many, many years...I suspect the reason so many fans were unsure of Ian Lenagan is because he liked to stay in the background. With recent circumstances he has had to propel himself to the front. What we hear from him now just cannot be argued with, you just can see why he is such a successful businessman and professional Rugby Club owner. Long may it continue.
I agree.
I must confess, when an SD was first mooted it didn’t feel right or necessary. But I’d be willing to trust IL’s judgement as someone who’s been there and done it. If he’s willing to put his hand in his pocket for both an SD and a coach, adding to the £4m or so he’s already stuck in since the beginning, then you’d have to accept he’s doing it for good reasons. Such a decision would also confirm his longer term commitment, because as AylesburyOx says, grand plans take far longer than one season.
Yet this ownership is clearly a family affair. The longer term and succession could be a genuine part of the equation, unlike the token nepotism of a certain Mr Maxwell!
[quote][p][bold]South Upper 87[/bold] wrote: The best pair of hands our club has been for many, many years...I suspect the reason so many fans were unsure of Ian Lenagan is because he liked to stay in the background. With recent circumstances he has had to propel himself to the front. What we hear from him now just cannot be argued with, you just can see why he is such a successful businessman and professional Rugby Club owner. Long may it continue.[/p][/quote]I agree. I must confess, when an SD was first mooted it didn’t feel right or necessary. But I’d be willing to trust IL’s judgement as someone who’s been there and done it. If he’s willing to put his hand in his pocket for both an SD and a coach, adding to the £4m or so he’s already stuck in since the beginning, then you’d have to accept he’s doing it for good reasons. Such a decision would also confirm his longer term commitment, because as AylesburyOx says, grand plans take far longer than one season. Yet this ownership is clearly a family affair. The longer term and succession could be a genuine part of the equation, unlike the token nepotism of a certain Mr Maxwell! Roy Burton's shorts
  • Score: 3

9:13pm Thu 6 Feb 14

BenkiuGuasu says...

Fascinating. Sounds likely that this will happen. I wonder if this would mean Mickey Lewis would be head coach - or if it means two people coming in to the club.

Keen is a proven coach, but has no experience of managing transfers. So he could be head coach maybe...

Not sure who leading sporting director candidates might be. Jim Smith is too retired for that I suppose.... Glenn Hoddle? Would be nice....too expensive though and may get the Swansea job. Oh, and he's a scummer....

The most important relationship at any club is between head coach and "sporting director". Pardew and Kinnear was never gonna work for example... (pretty bloody obvious that one)....

Dunno.... Good Luck Lenagan...
Fascinating. Sounds likely that this will happen. I wonder if this would mean Mickey Lewis would be head coach - or if it means two people coming in to the club. Keen is a proven coach, but has no experience of managing transfers. So he could be head coach maybe... Not sure who leading sporting director candidates might be. Jim Smith is too retired for that I suppose.... Glenn Hoddle? Would be nice....too expensive though and may get the Swansea job. Oh, and he's a scummer.... The most important relationship at any club is between head coach and "sporting director". Pardew and Kinnear was never gonna work for example... (pretty bloody obvious that one).... Dunno.... Good Luck Lenagan... BenkiuGuasu
  • Score: 1

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