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INTERVIEW: Well over 50 applicants

12 October 2013

Managing director John Nixon on appointing a new manager

Managing director John Nixon spoke to us this week about the task of appointing a new management team following the departure of former first team boss Greg Abbott at the beginning of last month.

“Appointing  a new manager and parting company with an old one is one of the key issues we have to face,” he agreed. “It’s also something you always struggle with as a board of directors because there often isn’t a right or wrong answer. 

“Appointing the manager is something the board tries to do as well as it can. You take a sounding from every board member on all of the applicants and you then draw up a shortlist based on those comments. 

“Three of us ran the shortlist, so that it didn’t become a huge committee meeting, and we then went back to the board with our thoughts, feelings and recommendations. We discussed all of those and we were unanimous in our final decision to go for Graham Kavanagh.”

“Parting ways with a manager is a different thing,” he continued. “It isn’t necessarily the board of directors that gets rid of a manager. It’s the business and often the fans – the board of directors are the tool used to carry that out. 

“It’s not always an easy decision because you’ve got to focus very clearly on what is actually happening. In our case, moving away from the manager was an easier decision because we basically had a business which was suffering and we had gates that were going down.

“We also had fans who were telling us they wanted to take that route, but the main factors were that the income was going down and we couldn’t spend as much as we wanted to on the team. That meant we couldn’t continue to go forward, and it’s a totally decreasing circle. 

“To say it’s a difficult job for the board – well, yes it is – but it isn’t the board that starts the whole thing off. It’s the fans, it’s the business and the whole circumstance of the club.”

“It’s very difficult because underneath it all you have to distinguish the difference between the manager and the man,” he admitted. “The man is a person and somebody who you have worked closely with so there are feelings which run deeper than business decisions. You always have to face that kind of thing.

“However, at the end of the day you have to withdraw from that and make the decision which is right for the business. We have to look at the fact the club is bigger than all of us and we have to consider the direction the business needs to take.”

“I think it was important to get the new appointment done quickly,” he said. “In real terms, that result against Sheffield United was a big one. We had asked the ‘United Three,’ as we call them, to keep things going for us through that game. There was no one senior person amongst the group of three, but Graham [Kavanagh] had been coaching with the first team and he obviously knew more about them. 

“They got us through that game with a win and they had tried lots of new things, which we were very pleased about. Having got through that successfully there was a degree of pressure lifted because we had got those first three points. The whole club, from the team to the ticket office, was lifted and we felt we had a little bit of breathing space to help us to get the decision right.”

“We had well over 50 applicants in the end,” he confirmed. “The applications were actually still coming in on the day we did the interviews. 

“We also had some applicants who were on the phone all the time to ask why they hadn’t made it onto the shortlist, so it was a role that had generated a lot of interest.

“We started off with a very simple process of going to the directors with all of the CVs and we ended up with a long shortlist of something like eight or nine names. I contacted them all to see if they wanted to come to watch the Sheffield United game - and some did. There was no promise that they would then go forward to the short shortlist, but the invitation was there. 

“There was then another opportunity for them to come to watch the Stevenage game and we went into the process of interviews on the following Tuesday. We actually didn’t tell Graham Kavanagh he was on the interview shortlist until after the Stevenage game because we didn’t want to add any pressure onto his situation.”

“Everyone who came to the interview stage had to work to the exact same criteria,” he revealed. “They were given a series of things to address at the club and they were given 20 minutes to explain their case. 

“We then had 20 minutes to ask questions and we also had a summing up period for each candidate. The whole process for each interview ran for just inside an hour.”

We’ll have more from managing director John Nixon on the official site on Sunday where he talks about the number of candidates who made it through to the interview process and the decision to appoint Graham Kavanagh.

United Player subscribers can see a video interview with John Nixon now. Click HERE to go to the Player platform. Follow the same link for more information on United Player, and to subscribe.

Click HERE to see this interview on our official YouTube channel. Visit our YouTube channel to see more free content right from the heart of the club. 

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