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Fulham announce Rigg departure

Fulham manager Kit Symons looks on alongside Chief Football Officer Mike Rigg

Fulham have confirmed the confirmed the departure of their chief football officer Mike Rigg in a statement issued via their official website this afternoon.

Rigg has been at Fulham for 23 months since being appointed to a newly-created role when Kit Symons was in charge of first team affairs. He had reportedly clashed with head coach Slavisa Jokanovic over transfer targets and his departure could be seen as a victory for the Serbian head coach, although Fulham’s statement insists the move was a ‘cordial’ one.

Chairman Shahid Khan is quoted as saying:

I am thankful for Mike Rigg’s commitment and service to Fulham Football Club over the past two years. Mike made many solid contributions to our club and I know he will be up to the next challenge in his football career. My personal best wishes go to Mike and his family.

The Apprentice

It’s 6am. The 10 remaining candidates are asleep. The phone rings.

“Shahid Khan would like to see you at the Bentall Centre in Kingston-upon-Thames, the cars will be here in 30 minutes”. A female voice says with a matter of fact tone. They hang up.

Gary puts the phone down and relays the message loud enough to rouse his sleeping peers, “Guys we’re going to Kingston, the cars will be here in half an hour”.

After a frantic half an hour of hair dryers, ironing and the tying of ties, the ten candidates shuffle into cars for the 30 minute drive from Fulham to Kingston-upon-Thames. Talk between the candidates is all about Steve’s abrupt exit from the process last week. The remaining candidates no longer know what to expect from the process and some aren’t even sure they want to be there.

When they arrive at a deserted Bentall Centre, the candidates process to the eerily quiet beauty section of the Bentalls Department Store. They are greeted by the cold steely stares of Khan’s lieutenants Alistair and Mike.

In their two teams the candidates line up, nervously waiting for Shahid Khan’s arrival.

At that moment outside, a Teal and Black Jaguar rolls up. Out steps the imposing figure of trans-atlantic business icon Shahid Khan. He walks to the candidates.

“Good morning”

“Good morning Mr Khan”

“As you may or may not be aware, the male grooming industry is booming. For this week’s task I’d like you to devise, market and sell your own moustache product. Now, the teams are uneven after last week so Slavisa and Jimmy Floyd, you go and join Team Tactics, while Stuart, you go and join Team Tradition. I’ll see you in the boardroom in three days. Good luck”.

With that the task had been set and the search to see who will be Shahid Khan’s next Apprentice continues.

Harrods in a Sea of Poundlands

The debacle of Steve Clarke’s almost appointment does not reflect well on Fulham.

With Kit Symons’ departure hardly coming as a surprise, what is more shocking is that Fulham didn’t appear to have a succession plan. Mike Rigg, the man tasked with finding Fulham’s new head coach, would surely have had a list of names at the ready for when they were needed. Alasdair Mackintosh certainly did, but the last manager he hired was Felix Magath.

Perhaps Rigg did, and does have a list. Perhaps that is why we find ourselves reeling from Steve Clarke’s refusal. If Clarke’s name has been on Rigg’s list all along, that would explain our somewhat inexplicable desire to want him as our boss despite his little better than mediocre record as Reading manager.

It would be unfair to judge Mike Rigg until the coach he hires has had a year or two in the job. Who knows, Clarke saying no might be a blessing.

Whilst for many the delay represents an unneeded disaster, speed isn’t the only obstacle Fulham face.

For Fulham the most important thing is who is appointed, not when. If time was of the immediate essence, then Alan Curbishley would already have his family photos on the desk in the manager’s office at Motspur Park.

Time only becomes a problem if this drags on too long. Preston and Nottingham Forest follow this weekend’s trip to MK Dons and they mustn’t be wasted, but the entire future of the club doesn’t hinge on these nine potential points. However, each game becomes more important with each point dropped and every day with a new coach will stand us in better stead. There is a balance to be had.

There is an argument though to suggest that unless we are working on a deal for Jose Mourinho (or David Moyes), there isn’t a great deal to choose between the candidates. Every day where Head Coach’s chair is sat vacant is, in essence, wasted. There is an expression, perhaps too vulgar for these pages, that suggests one has to “sh*t, or get off the toilet”. We are not at that stage yet, but when choosing between 99p Stores and Poundland, there is a time limit to due diligence.

Of the coaches Fulham are considering, of course we are all hoping that there is someone worth waiting for. To continue the shopping metaphor, a Harrods in a sea of Poundlands. Remember, Harrods got us into the Premier League once.

I just hope whichever direction we go next, we do so privately. It may well not have been Fulham who leaked the Clarke info, but the press have cited Fulham sources more than once in the past fortnight.  The whole Championship don’t need to know our business and the last two days will best be forgotten.

COYW

Rigg eyes quick appointment

Fulham chief football officer Mike Rigg is confident the club will have a new head coach in place before the international break is over.

The Whites are searching for a new man at the helm following their decision to sack Kit Symons in the wake of Saturday’s 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Birmingham City.

Rigg has made it clear that achieving a play-off position was always Symons’ key objective this term and the man who replaces him will be expected to push for a top-six finish.

“We had a difficult job to re-shape the squad,” Rigg explained.

“We got 25 players out and got 12 players in but Kit has been under no illusions since the first day of pre-season.

“The expectations were that we wanted to be in the top six, that’s what all the discussions were, there was no doubt about that.

“We’d set targets at the start of where we wanted to be after 10, 20 games picked up two great results against Reading and Bristol City but we couldn’t afford to drop that momentum against Birmingham.

“But it got to the point in that game where we just thought that was the pivotal moment. We’ve got 30 games left in the season, still enough to get back on track.”

A plethora of names have been touted for the job, which Fulham are keen to stress is that of a head coach rather than a manager, although they look set to miss out on Paul Lambert.

Lambert has been made the leading contender for the Blackburn Rovers hotseat freed up by Gary Bowyer’s axing at Ewood Park yesterday evening.

Nigel Pearson remains the bookies’ favourite and is available after being shown the door by Leicester City in the summer after guiding them to Premier League safety.

“There’s a lot of good people out there,” Rigg said.

“There’s some people in work, some people out of work, and there’s a lot of interest.

“We have to make sure we bring in a successful head coach, that has a proven track record but also fits in with the direction, strategically, that we want to go as a club and ultimately that’s about getting back into the Premier League.

“The international break gives us the luxury of two weeks. The head coach could be in this weekend or it could take a little bit longer.

“We’ve got more than enough professionals in the building to see us through if we need to but ideally we’d like to have someone in time for MK Dons.”

Fulham travel to MK Dons on November 21 and it is likely that Alan Curbishley would take charge of the team if a new boss is yet to be appointed.

Meanwhile, John Carver emerged as another contender for the job last night.

The Mike Rigg Era

rigg

The transfer window is shut, the summer business is done and once the players are back from the international break, the season really starts. But we move back in time to just after Christmas when it was announced that Shahid Khan had invested in a ‘Chief Football Officer.’ Khan, a man whose ownership has been about trusting others with enough rope to succeed or to hang themselves with, lifted the pressure on CEO Alistair Mackintosh with appointment of Mike Rigg to take charge of the footballing side of club. This move frees the aforementioned Mackintosh to concentrate more on the business side and growing of Fulham FC as an entity, with Rigg growing it as a football club.

Mike Rigg came to Fulham with an impressive CV, notably coming from the FA as the Head of Talent Management as part of a team looking to reshape English football; and prior to that being the Head of Recruitment for Manchester City as they looked to quickly transform from any old Premier League team to title contenders and Champions League participants. An experienced recruiter, Rigg was involved in Manchester City signing Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva – as well as Nigel De Jong who he first tracked as Blackburn’s Chief Scout, a role he held from 2006 to 2008. So meticulous were the reports on players, Manchester City’s report on Alexis Sanchez was 56 pages long, including detail like his family home and external activities. In an interview with Goal, Rigg said “[scouts] would check into hotels where they knew the team was playing and pretend to be a fan and go up and get an autograph off them.” The particulars of this report, all for a player that ultimately signed for Barcelona, is representative of the template that Mike Rigg wishes to implement and the standards he aims to live by.

I don’t want to make this is transfer window review post, but Rigg has displayed his ability to recruit with flair – transforming the playing staff with quality whilst also slashing the wage bill and keeping the net spend miraculously low. Fulham’s squad has tonnes of division experience, and former success with 7 club specific Players of the Year. Our core squad is now resolute, technically comfortable and mobile, leading to the spending figure deserving to be drummed to highlight the magnificent work done by our management over the summer. Players like Tom Cairney and Ben Pringle will be hungry to reach the Premier League, a Jamie O’Hara hungry to rejuvenate his career (to success thus far) as well as Jazz Richards, Richard Stearman and Tim Ream keen to return to the Premier League and add to their snippets of top-level experience. A squad has been assembled of those with the ability to take the ball in any situation, those with the right characters to succeed and those together for one goal – promotion.

The lack of patience in football is a common complaint in the modern game; managers sacked frequently and no long-term plan. In Michael Calvin’s award winning The Nowhere Men, Rigg commented on this, saying “Everybody in football wants it and wants it now. No one is prepared to wait for anything, anymore,” he said, “surely there should be a consistent set of principles to work on.” This was made even clearer to our Chief Football Officer when whilst working for the FA, he visited small Spanish side Alcorcón in search of inspiration construction a new DNA for English football, he said in an interview with the Guardian, “The council runs the club, it’s about 20 minutes outside Madrid, and it’s got a stadium that holds about 4,500 people and an Astroturf pitch that is the training ground. I sat down with their sporting director and I was blown away with how they develop players because of their DNA. It was essentially about having a plan, sticking to it and getting everyone to buy into it.” The ideology of continuity in philosophy will benefit Fulham infinitely. We’ve seen the picture (snapped by yours truly) of what can be fairly accurately presumed to be the eventual formation that will run through our football club from the first team down to the under 8s. Small pieces like this build up to create one big animal as the football club looks to return to Premier League and continue the conveyor belt of academy, with the club financing itself rather than extraneous income to grow with the best facilities and the best infrastructure.

Recruitment isn’t Rigg’s only role at the football club; he’s also to work with the academy, and the sports performance, medical and analytics teams. Analytics and statistical data are already a feature at Fulham, and that’s prior to Tony Khan’s input (who may have taken it to another level). Scott McLachlan, now Chelsea’s Head of International scouts, revealed, “The Fulham CEO [Alistair Mackintosh] could see the future before the whole Moneyball thing became a parody of itself. He believed we could combine analysis and metrics with scouting.” I won’t explain the Moneyball theory in detail, but in short, Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics (Oakland’s baseball team), built a competitive baseball team despite its uncompetitive revenue using statistics. Statistics will be used for both performance analysis and recruitment to create sophistic scouting reports for both opposition and potential incomings. The team effort of Fulham is heightened when we discuss Fulham, as mentioned earlier about the separate roles of Mackintosh and Rigg coming together to move forward, Shahid Khan’s son, Tony manages Fulham’s statistical research alongside his role as Senior Vice President of Football Technology and Analytics for the Jacksonville Jaguars. When it does come to analytics and recruitment, there’s a nice blend at the club of believing in the ability to statistically breakdown players coming to positive results, whilst Rigg will not neglect the actual watching and scouting of a player and really learning what it is that you are investing in.

I can’t say what Mike Rigg will provide the football club from a medical and sports performance basis – if it is something he’s experienced before, it has not been recorded from what I’ve tried to find, but with the success of his transfer window and the early signs of his tenure, I’m sure that gears will start to turn to positive effect for Fulham.
A man with a plan, Rigg has given Kit Symons all the tools to succeed on the football pitch and has laid the basic foundations down for Fulham to move forward as a club. A man who only officially joined in March, Mike Rigg will still only be in the infancy of the larger picture for our unique football club and I am sure that the right people are in place for the key roles here. Alistair Mackintosh is a wonderful CEO who helped negotiate the clubs’ record sponsorship deal with MarathonBet and also set about developing our now renowned by appointing Huw Jennings as the Academy Director three months after his own appointment. A successful window has turned the mood of supporters but building a squad able to finish in the top six is only the start before Shahid Khan’s plan for our football club starts to move in the energy, work and passion of Alistair Mackintosh, and our Chief Football Officer, Mike Rigg.