HE will never pick a team, score a goal or lift any silverware. He won’t take a training session or have his name chanted by supporters.
His efforts are essential, though, and the ramifications of his successes or failures will impact every level of the club. He is at the top, but his influence reaches the bottom.
For Rangers, he has yet to be announced. The manager’s office has been filled, but a seat at Ibrox remains vacant.
The appointment of a Director of Football will be the final piece in the Light Blue puzzle as the Gers board look to modernise the way the club operates. If the future is to be bright, then the next move has to be right.
It is a role that has become increasingly popular but one that many in the Scottish game remain sceptical of. There are misinterpretations and there is misinformation.
Yet it is not just football that is embracing the ideology, with teams from motorsport, cricket and rugby all following a similar path and introducing Sporting Directors into their setup.
It requires a unique skill set, a business mind as well as sporting knowledge.
“We have seen with the recruitment for the role, because it is a resource issue as well, that they are going for what is essentially a Head of Recruitment.
“They call it Director of Football but ultimately they get someone who is only heading up the transfer side of things rather than the broader role that looks after the sporting strategy.
“Rangers have got some really interesting developments with the Academy and that requires leadership and it needs to tie into what the club want to achieve.”
The course that Parnell leads offers a unique opportunity for professionals to enhance their business or personal skills to open doors that would previously have been closed. The likes of Ashley Giles, the former England bowler and now Sporting Director at Warwickshire CCC, and David Moyes’ right man at Everton and Manchester United, Steve Round, are both graduates from MMU.
The move towards a Director of Football structure is one that more clubs are making yet there can often be a clash between a modern approach and the psyche that is engrained within those in our game. Football is changing, and clubs must go with the times.
The need for instant gratification and success has led to short-term thinking and a culture where decisions are made in the spur of the moment rather than with a plan in place.
The cycle is repeated up and down the country but too many don’t learn from the mistakes of others.
“Within clubs, the money has put the pressure on managers and the turnover is high,” Parnell said.
“Every time a manager changed, the Academy would change, the backroom staff would change, the medics, the head of performance, the scouts, all of that would go out the window.
“That is not a sustainable way to run a business or a football club. With a Sporting Director in place, that turnover of staff need not happen.”
The departure of Mark Warburton, along with assistant David Weir and Frank McParland, the Head of Recruitment, saw the process start again at Ibrox. Pedro Caixinha is now in place and the structure is almost complete.
With a Director of Football installed, the mechanics will change and a departure from the dugout shouldn’t lead to sweeping alterations in the future.
The framework is about providing support at first team level whilst offering guidance to the board and the Academy. He won’t have the final say on transfers, but will have to implement and operate the scouting network as well as performance and sports science departments. He doesn’t pick the side, but he is a key part of the team.
“My understanding of Rangers is that they want the broader role, someone who can look after the sporting strategy and all areas,” Parnell said.
“But because of the tinderbox that is football - the pressure on owners, on execs, on managers - they need someone to deliver on transfers and box off the recruitment first.
“That then gets them finance for the club and the manager to begin to operate more broadly and operate with a wider strategy.”
When it comes to the Ibrox blueprint, the incoming Director of Football will have virtually a blank sheet of paper. He must have the trust of the board and a strong working relationship with Caixinha, but the Portuguese should have little, if any, input into who assumes the role.
Southampton’s Ross Wilson has already declined the position, while another name on the initial shortlist, Stuart Webber, has been appointed as Sporting Director at Norwich. Robert Rowan of Brentford and Paul Mitchell, who is currently on gardening leave from Tottenham Hotspur, have also come under consideration.
“Clubs are narrowing the scope of the people they could look at for the role,” Parnell said.
“In Rangers’ case, where money is tight, they need someone that is value for money.
“That might be someone who hasn’t had the title before, someone that needs an opportunity.
“Who people are going for is ridiculously limited. It is a bit hostage to football because people work within their connections, whether that is agencies or intermediaries for players, or with executive recruitment organisations.
“It is an element of trust. People are worried that they need to get someone of that title in rather than looking at the skills required to bring together the various departments.”
The successful candidate at Rangers does not need to be a household name. Indeed the configuration operates more effectively, Parnell believes, if the man at the top keeps his profile low.
The likes of Brian Marwood at Manchester City and Dan Ashworth, who had a role at West Bromwich Albion before joining the Football Association, are two well-known examples but many supporters have little insight into the way that they operate.
It is Southampton, where the structure is headed up by Les Reed, that is arguably the model to follow for Rangers. The products of their youth system have made the club millions, while the departures of Mauricio Pochettino and then Ronald Koeman have not halted the steady progress that has been made on and off the park in recent years.
“If you get someone that has got a profile, especially if it is someone that has got a reputation, like a manager, that is when there can be tension with the first team manager,” Parnell said.
“Your Sporting Director has to be low profile and someone that doesn’t need their ego furnishing. It is someone who just gets on with the job and puts the manager in the limelight for their successes.”
For Rangers, the only way has to be up. It is Caixinha that will be judged by what happens on the park, but the support network around him that will provide him with the opportunity to succeed.
While recruitment at youth and first team level will be imperative for Rangers, the Director of Football is not someone who wheels and deals in the transfer market. The remit is more wide reaching and he will report to Managing Director Stewart Robertson on every aspect of the football operation as Rangers strive to introduce best practice at Auchenhowie and Ibrox.
“With Rangers, there is such a massive opportunity to get someone that wants to get stuck into a huge project,” Parnell said.
“There is so much scope to get it right and you get it right with someone that understands the structure.
“Stewart Robertson comes across as a really good fella and they need to work with him to build a broader sporting strategy.
“That is the only way I can see Rangers begin to compete with Celtic. They need to take a long term view.
“What do we need to do to get some money in the bank? How do we improve the performances? Then you can build the rest of the club up.”
The introduction of a Director of Football may be a new way of thinking at Ibrox but the philosophies are already well established further afield, notably at the likes of Benfica and Sevilla. It is viewed by some as a strictly continental approach, but those in our game shouldn’t show reticence when presented with fresh thinking.
“We have stereotype of how we perceive people in football but there are incredible guys with some amazing ideas,” Parnell said. “It isn’t just someone who has had a playing career or been high profile. It should be someone capable of leading an organisation.”
Neil Doncaster, the chief executive of the SPFL, is one of the guest speakers at MMU, as are the likes of Damien Comolli and ex-Liverpool CEO Rick Parry.
Former England boss Steve McLaren and Sean O’Driscoll, who was assistant manager to Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, have both enrolled in the Sport Directorship course. Even established figures are not being left behind by the pace of progression.
“Sean is one of my best students,” Parnell said.
“He reads the research, he can articulate it and he did an amazing project around using electronic games in academies to educate players in a different way. It was an incredible piece of work.”
Rangers are not reinventing the wheel, but it could put them on the road to success once again.
The era of the gaffer is over.