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Recruiting strategy is key…

For almost the entire season and especially since the Anfield derby the form of Everton has, at best, been patchy and at worst downright embarrassingly awful, and this has led to an increasing number of questions over the capabilities of the manager Marco Silva.

Now this article hasn’t been written with the outright intention of adding further fuel to the fires of discontent that burn in certain quarters and are reaching wildfire proportions in others in wanting to see Silva ousted, it’s an offering of how the appointment of key staff like a head coach or manager could/should be handled.

A little over two years ago, during the ill-fated Koeman/Walsh era, I published a couple of articles related to player recruiting, and somewhat ironically, Steve Walsh wrote in similar vein barely a couple of weeks later. With the benefit of hindsight and somewhat tongue in cheek on my behalf, perhaps he might have been well advised to read those articles and put the principles into practise, rather than Koeman and he adopting a scattergun, ‘look at the size of our chequebook’ approach to their squad building.

Now though, let’s return to the present and a situation that may befall Marcel Brands if results and performances don’t improve between the resumption of play at Cardiff a week on Tuesday and the end of the season.

Opinion is split between whether we stick with Marco Silva and give him time to work with the players for the rest of this season and through the summer into next season or… if the worryingly similar trends of his time at Hull, Watford and to date with Everton cannot be rectified quickly, whether to end his tenure and start again?

Nobody really wants Everton to be a club associated with constantly changing managers, knee-jerk reactions and having a distinct lack of patience, but modern day Premier League football is very much a results business. And if the results aren’t forthcoming, and for many Evertonians there needs to be a quality performance as well as three points, then changes are almost inevitably going to occur.

For the Director of Football then, there needs to be a strategy, a process by which suitable head coach/manager candidates are identified, researched and vetted before we actually get down to the serious business of offering a contract.

In both theory and practise it’s a relatively simple process. Football is a global game, and as such it’s probably asking too much of any individual to have his finger on the pulse of every market from where a new head coach or manager could be sought.

Marcel Brands will have built up, over a number of years, a considerable ‘black book’ of contacts around the world, and it’s these contacts who you turn to on two fronts. Firstly to suggest that a position may be or is coming available for prospective candidates and secondly to hone in on people already known about.

When names are offered or clearly identified, then the most diligent and thorough research must be undertaken. No stone should be left ignored or unturned. Everything needs to be explored and thoroughly dissected. Every aspect of a candidates history in and out of the game should be considered. You talk to the candidates, and not just once or twice, but several times and at odd times of the day to see how they react and handle themselves.

References must be taken and very importantly, not just those offered by the candidate, because they’re nailed on to speak glowingly… nobody offers a reference who would badmouth them would they?

So you go about finding your own references and not just one or two, but as many as possible. Players who have played for them, coaches who have worked with them and coached against them, and importantly other Directors of Football or club General Managers who have worked with them previously.

It’s an exhaustive process and not one to be undertaken hastily or lightly. And it can be and perhaps should be a constant process. Nobody knows when a change may be needed and to suddenly and quickly have to make a key change without having such a procedure in place can prove dangerous and, in this day and age extremely expensive if it goes pear-shaped.

In much the same way as good managers and Directors of Football have a scouting system for players, there should, to my mind, be exactly the same research and scouting system for coaches and potential managers.

Football is way too expensive and dangerous a business these days to make hasty appointments of the flavour of the day, the first out of work name that springs to mind, or to leave things to chance and hope for the best.

If we were to be in any way critical of where Everton are at present, we could suggest that the appointment of Ronald Koeman was made largely on his undoubtedly stellar playing career in Holland and Spain and for the Dutch national team. His previous managerial stints particularly with PSV Eindhoven, Valencia, AZ Alkmaar, Feyenoord and Southampton were at best functional.

The appointment of Sam Allardyce in the wake of Koemans’ demise was a safety-first, guarantee us Premier League survival move and whilst Allardyce achieved what was asked of him, he did so with a total lack of ambition to do more, lack of charm, disregard for the supporters, lack of grace and an appalling style of football completely alien to the traditions of Everton Football Club. Twelve months on, his tenure as manager of Everton remains regarded as an indelible stain on our history.

And that brings us to the current manager Marco Silva, who came with a reputation for improving players technically, an important factor if the focus for the long term is on youth. After a reasonable start and fledgling signs of a style Evertonians could get on board with, the wheels have somewhat come off the wagon, and he will surely accept that there needs to be a dramatic upturn in what remains of this season.

Whether we make another change rests, I’d suggest, not only on the results but also on the nature of the performances between now and the end of the season.

My hope therefore is that Marcel Brands has a head coach/managerial appointment strategy similar to that I’ve suggested… because we can’t afford to get it wrong again.

For those interested, here are the links to the articles I published just over two years ago…

Recruiting, the need for character

Building a squad…

Originally published on my personal blog – andycostigan.wordpress.com

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