ROVERS reporter Rich Sharpe sat down with the club's new Director of Football Operations for his first interview since taking the job earlier this month.

How are you feeling about your new role at Ewood Park?
I’m finding things fine. There are some wonderful people at the football club and I’m enjoying my time here. I’ve enjoyed getting out and meeting staff, meeting fans and getting a deeper understanding of the heritage and history of the club because you only can do so much reading on a club to get to a deeper understanding of how it works.

Could you tell us a bit about your footballing background?This is my sixth club in approaching 30 years in the industry.  I’ve worked at West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Charlton Athletic, Tottenham Hotspur and Sheffield Wednesday last season.  I have been a coach, a recruiter, a project manager as well as football director and sporting director.  It’s been a mixed bag of operation and administration roles, I’ve worked domestically and European wide during my time at Spurs where I was an international scout.

Your appointment came slightly out of the blue. Was it a relatively and straightforward process? Were you approached, and how did it work out?
It was straightforward. The club had a defined gap, a capacity need at a strategic level. The owners had been thinking about this for some time, I’m led to believe, and it was an opportunity that arose at the right time.  
Over the years you meet people, managers and leaders on the football circuit, and I suppose it was a case of connectivity and previously people appreciated the work I did at Sheffield Wednesday.
I restructured that football club, brought in 14 new players, worked within a budget and had some good development off the pitch, new facilities at the training ground and building a stronger infrastructure at the club to help take Sheffield Wednesday from a team that was in the lower half of the Championship to one that was on the verge of the Premier League. I think it was a positive enhancement and enhanced my CV with what I had done before.

Had you been aware of the Rao family and Venky’s brand? Had you known them before you came in to this job or is it a new relationship?

It is a new relationship that is based around Blackburn.  Over the years I have met members of the family, I have met the owners at various games in boardrooms and things like that.  You meet people on the circuit and you have conversations and build a rapport, but that’s only at a surface level.

There came a time when the club felt there was a need to add to the football club in this capacity in the football area and it was felt that I could be a good fit based on what the club’s needs were and my previous experiences.

Are you the go-between between Ewood Park and India? Is it your responsibility to be that regular contact?

I have regular contact with the owners, I’m not the only person who has contact with the owners at the football club, when there are areas within my responsibility that the owners need to be made aware of then naturally I will speak to them.

How important is that relationship between Ewood Park and India? How important is it for a bridge to be built between the supporter base and the owners?

My thoughts on that are the fans are very passionate and want the best for the football club, as do the owners as well. The owners have made a significant investment, to make sure this club stays financially solvable.  The owners put in £10million a year in addition to what revenues the club brings in to keep it afloat and to prevent it from going in to administration which would be a vulnerable position.

Relationships are important, but the owners manage various projects across the world, the club is important to them, my relationship with them is important, but as with many football clubs, the owners don’t necessarily have a direct interface with the fanbase and it’s more important that the fans feel the club is moving in the right direction.

If we can get results on the pitch, and everyone is behind the club, it’s that one club, one ethos approach, and everyone supporting the club to go forward in the right direction. 

Relationships with owners, if you compare with other clubs, some have that, some don’t.  Our owners aren’t necessarily rockstars and wanting the limelight, they want the best for the football club, and their role is to appoint the right people, like myself, and other directors and senior leaders, to make sure we take the club in the right direction.  The owners will hold us to account if we don’t.

Are they aware there is a problem between the fanbase and themselves, and they have to improve it?
The owners have many business interests, this is one they care deeply about. My role is to make sure the owners are aware of what’s happening on and off the pitch and with regards to what’s gone on historically, I can’t comment on that, but my role will be to help move the club forward.

Is there a concern in India where the club finds itself?

With the club’s current league position the owners are hurting, as the fans will be, this is one club.  Everyone wants the club to kick on and get out of the position in which we find ourselves in.  This is hurting the owners, they have invested a lot in to this football club, not just financial, but at an emotional level as well, and there is regular communication.

If there wasn’t, and they didn’t care about the club, then the conversations and the level of accountability that is put on me, wouldn’t happen.

Your role is a lot more than transfers?
Player recruitment is only one part of the role, the football department has many component parts. The club has a successful academy, we have a medical department, a physiotherapy department, so player recruitment is only one part. 
But it’s important that all of these component parts are contributing to us having a successful football department to help move the club forward.

The club has had a number of people in different guises employed in a similar role. What assurances can you give supporters about the work that you will do, and how important are these roles in the modern game?

I will endeavour to give my best efforts to the football club, working with partners, stakeholders and all interested parties to try and contribute to taking this football club forward.

We’re seeing an increase in this kind of role and within European football it’s a popular model.  The modern manager has so many facets to deal with on a daily basis, the role of the Director of Football is an important function to help manage the business, and my job is to look at the bigger picture, to think about the policy and strategy for the football department thinking about the short and long term priorities and thinking about all of the component parts for which I am responsible for.