RGM Sport – The Insider, the voice of someone within sport.

The Insider is the voice of someone within sport, anonymously discussing the experiences and issues faced during their career.

This week we hear from a Recruitment Analyst who has worked at several levels of the football pyramid, including the Premier League. Here they discuss the inner workings of a Manager being replaced at the elite level.

When a club is settled everything flows nicely. Whether that be on the pitch or in the background. From the players to the backroom staff, everyone knows what is expected of them and is focused on doing that job to the best of their abilities.

A club has it’s own common language that everyone will use to describe certain things happening on and off the pitch. You can always tell when a club is in this settled rhythm as everyone at the club, even down to the Head Chef, will communicate using this common language. This comes from a clear and defined leadership structure at the top end that filters down to ensure people are in positions where they can be most effective.

When a Manager leaves, it rarely comes out of the blue. Every time I’ve been at a club where the Boss has left or been sacked, and I’ve been at my fair share of them, the feeling in the air starts to build. You can feel that growing tension as a staff member too. It shows on the pitch with the players in their performance and then you see it filter through every department of the training ground. Doors that used to be open in offices become shut, more hushed conversations start taking place and strange happenings start to occur. At one of my former clubs a Coach suddenly asked for all our performance analysis data, from his whole time at the club, to be put onto an external hard drive for him. This was nearly 100 terabytes of information! All four of us in our Department looked at each other and thought “he could be on his way here.” Once you hit a tipping point like that, you know it’s all over.

Then the rumour mill starts to turn. Having worked in recruitment and produced manager dossiers as part of a manager recruitment process, I constantly get asked by other members of staff outside the department if things online or in the news are true. Most of the time it is a case of no smoke without fire but stories in the media, as we all know too well now, are often sensationalised.

Whether you have a say on the next appointment all depends on the standing you have at the Club. Working in non-league and academy football, you know that change can be immediate and you won’t be consulted. I have seen a Manager at that level walk on the Saturday evening and been replaced by Monday morning, with a totally new squad of fifteen players in the door too.

A Premier League recruitment team doesn’t just look at players. Producing detailed dossiers on Manager’s to fit the culture of the club goes hand in hand. A discerning Chairman will use everything at his disposal to make sure an informed and swift decision can be made. In my experience, that has included the Club Captain and senior members of the dressing room being consulted too. The pace is not too dissimilar to the lower leagues though, I’ve watched staff decorate and rearrange the office for a new Manager ahead of him even setting foot in the building.

Once the new Boss has their feet under the table, staff at all levels sit waiting for the next move. Will they be subtle and make a few tweaks to the philosophy? Or will it be total change across the board? You’ll find a lot of people quick to try and please, going out their way to make a good impression and that brings its own problems. This jostling for position as part of the ‘career game’ can create agitation within the calmest of departments.

Regardless of the staff, a majority of Managers at the highest level have their preferred working methods and you are expected to get in line from the get-go. Not quite ‘fit in or f*ck off’, FIFO as we liked to use, but not but far from it.

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