This piece was first published on June 20 and has been re-published after Michael Beale was sacked as Rangers manager. 


Over the weekend, news emerged of some potential names that could succeed Ross Wilson at Rangers.

On Sunday, the Rangers Review confirmed that former player Carlos Bocanegra had been interviewed for the post but wouldn’t be travelling back to Ibrox to fill the void of Sporting Director.

Inevitably the talk of an appointment, which has played second-fiddle in open season of the transfer window, prompted a familiar question: Do Rangers even need a Sporting Director? Even if, as reported, the role will have an adapted list of responsibilities.

There’s a reason that most top clubs in football have some form of footballing continuity aside from their manager. In fact, there are many reasons. A manager’s life-span can be brief and clubs must plan beyond their tenures. A manager’s vision is often short-term and therefore, there’s the requirement for somebody else to consider the long-term, finding the right balance, if this is such a thing, between results and development.

There are also practical reasons, as Michael Beale explained in May.

"Probably the last five or six weeks have been the busiest I've ever been. I was used to it here before but the added responsibility and added time off the pitch, managing other areas and doing recruitment, it's been busy.”

For somebody like Beale, who’s in the position he holds because of exceptional ability on the training pitch, infrastructure to facilitate his best work is important – so long as a Sporting Director’s job remit does just that.

We won’t be able to judge the success or failure of this transfer window until success or failure follows on the pitch but on the basis of January, there’s reason for optimism. A cynic may suggest that Rangers are opting for one too many players in need of career re-direction but in mitigation, Beale’s focus on personality alongside quality has been obvious. Meeting every target individually to assess their character alongside credentials.

“We always have to take an element of risk — sometimes we get a broken child, sometimes we get one before he’s flourished, and we have to help them flourish,” he said earlier this year, with a nod to the gaps in the market this summer would be spent exploiting.

Plans for this summer have been in place for some time. As such, an immediate appointment wasn't necessarily needed, especially given the way Beale's discussed transfers since arriving. 

“If I am going to be judged on the outcome, I want to be a huge part of the conversation about which players come in," he said following Wilson's departure in April. 

READ MORE: Do Rangers need to replace Ross Wilson after Premier League exit?

“I was in co-charge of it anyway, so it was not just me or Ross who decided. It is a committee, but the players we recommend and the finances still have to go in front of the board. We work under a budget. The idea that it is down to one person is really far-fetched.”

It’s not as if this is a lone venture and to borrow Beale’s version, only one person has been taken out of the jigsaw. Ross Wilson was at pains to point out during last November’s AGM that, “Ross Wilson does not sign players”.

There was a false narrative during Giovanni van Bronckhrost’s tenure that the Dutchman was simply handed players. It’s something he personally shot down, explaining on one occasion that there wasn’t a ‘Gio-list’ of players but only a ‘Rangers-list’.

What is true is that certain managers can exert greater influence on recruitment. It’s not far-reaching to suggest that Beale’s approach on the recruitment front is more full-on, with clearly identifiable links to each player arriving this summer.

So, if this transfer window is a success, would a Sporting Director not simply prove a hindrance? Would the evidence of this summer not overwhelm the last? Let’s go back to Beale.

"In that sort of role, sporting director, technical director whatever you want to term it, I think it's the safeguarding of the club,” he said, referencing a job description that’s bigger than recruitment.

"It is someone who oversees the departments - one of those departments being the first team. And I think it safeguards the club in terms of future management signings and making sure the strategy from the board is put in place."

Perhaps the biggest criticism that should be levelled at Wilson, beyond signings given they’re not an individual venture, is this - continuity and safeguarding.

Wilson’s role was likely somewhat misunderstood and his absence from the public domain didn’t help things. But from a strategic point of view, his very position should’ve, surely, negated the need for a rebuild two years after the highs of 2021.

Because up until April, Wilson had been the person responsible for continuity on the footballing front.

He appointed a manager in Van Bronckhorst who, although penalties away from the club's greatest-ever modern achievement, played a style of football that was very different from Gerrard’s tenure and ultimately not conducive to domestic success. It’s revisionist to suggest that move wasn’t popular at the time but it’s a strategist's job to look into the future. Players who were sellable assets lost value, contracts ticked down and last summer’s transfer business failed to add significant value.

A club the size of Rangers is unique for many reasons. One of those is its disjointed place in the footballing food chain – the financial muscle it can wield does not correspond with the club's comparative size and expectations.

Perhaps, therefore, we need to think of the Sporting Director conversation not exclusively in the mould of recruitment. 

Rangers don’t only need a head of recruitment, but someone alongside Beale to safeguard the future. To still allow managers control and a healthy hand in recruitment, while ensuring windows in summers to come are more about rejuvenation than rebuilding.