Recruiting the best people off as well as on the park is key for Rangers’ Mark Allen
Recruiting well has been the main aim of Rangers’ director of football, and it is not just the players, hears Chris Jack
THE statement from Mark Allen is as true about staff as it is players.
“You can never have too many good people,” he said while reflecting on the changes he has made behind the scenes at the Hummel Training Centre since his move from Manchester City in June last year. “I have learned that in my managerial career, and across a number of spectrums. People are key and good people help you get to where you need to get to quicker.”
The work to implement a more cohesive support unit around him was the main objective for Allen when he was appointed director of football at Rangers. The benefits have already been seen this summer, but must continue in a cycle that is neverending.
He now has a new manager, Steven Gerrard, in place and a transfer window behind him that saw Rangers make 15 signings as his network of staff – headed up by Andy Scoulding, and with John Brown and Dave Swanick appointed to scouting roles – and contacts were really put to the test for the first time.
The main component of the club’s ambition, of course, is a higher calibre of player. Sourcing and acquiring that commodity isn’t Allen’s only remit, but it is the measuring stick by which he will be judged by supporters.
On early evidence, he can be pleased with his efforts and the strike-rate under Gerrard is more than favourable right now. There will always be mistakes and errors of judgment but the process – from the first word of mouth or video clip to the moment when pen is put to paper – is as thorough as it can be.
“It is part of a much bigger picture in terms of the whole club philosophy and style of play, but the reality is that we have to look at every position,” Allen said of the scouting strategy and recruitment procedures. “We have got every position covered off, from an attacking right-back to a defensive right-back to a right wing-back.
“Then you look at a number of characteristics within that, such as what are they like in possession? What are they like out of possession? What are they like when the ball is in transition between attack and defence? What are the physical attributes that are required in a league like this? And, more importantly, have they got what it takes to play at Ibrox? That is the hardest one to judge, because you don’t really know until they get here.
“But you can do a lot of research into the type of person and character that they are. It is very in depth in terms of deciding which particular talent we go after.”
The famous wooden front doors of Ibrox could have been replaced by revolving ones in recent years as scores of players have arrived and departed under a series of managers.
There has seemingly been little strategy or thought put into the signings at times but that shouldn’t be the case now Allen is overseeing the entire football operation and has his blueprint in place.
As director of football, his influence is more wide-ranging than just picking players to sign and his work with the academy, in sports science and medical, all feeds into the bigger picture as he and Gerrard look to put the best possible team on the pitch.
“Unless you are at the very, very top of the game, most football clubs have to look at their acquisition of talent as something that gives them a return on the investment,” Allen said. “Now, that return on investment could be winning the league, it could be from one price to another, it could be a player that comes in that wants to be part of the squad and is happy to be part of the squad. There are so many different avenues you can go into with the recruitment strategy and the rationale behind the deals.
“I also think you need to look at the make-ups. There will be marque signings, there will be first-team players, there will be core players, there are all different categories.
“It is about mapping that out. But there is no secret that, if you buy at one price and sell at another, that might give you more money to reinvest and carry on.
“We are no different to any other business, and football is no different to any other business. There has to be a sustainability and a rhyme and reason to it.”
The model of buy low and sell high is one that clubs across Europe – and, closer to home Celtic – have used to profitable effect for a while now. It is a way of operating that Rangers haven’t yet made the most of and, while they now have some assets, timing is everything.
Each penny is no longer a prisoner at Ibrox but value for money must still be found. The main ambition remains the same as it always has been, though, and that is to assemble a team capable of delivering domestic silverware and competing on the continent.
“I wouldn’t want the impression that we are a buy-to-sell club and that we only buy to sell,” Allen said. “That is not correct. First and foremost we want to be successful and I need to make sure we attract and secure players that are going to make us successful.
“Then you look at the secondary part and there may be opportunities as a result of that success where suddenly the value of your players increases. There comes a point in any footballer’s journey that the price is right. Neymar left one club to join another for a phenomenal fee and the price was right.
“There will always be a right price for footballers, that is the market we are in. It is recognising that and also recognising when the best time is to capitalise.
“It is no secret that there were offers for
James Tavernier and Alfredo
Morelos, but we didn’t feel it was the right time and nor did we feel it was the right price.”