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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 December 2005, 10:58 GMT
Saintly or sinful?
By John May

Clive Woodward
From the day he walked into Southampton FC, Sir Clive Woodward was never merely going to idly sit on his hands.

When he was appointed as Southampton performance director four months ago, he insisted he was there to learn under Harry Redknapp's tutelage and that any thoughts of management were some way off in the distance.

But the appointment of George Burley marks the former British and Irish Lions and England World Cup-winning coach's rapid rise and growing influence at St Mary's.

In those four short months, Woodward has gone from football rookie fresh from rugby, to a position where he is now effectively in charge of football strategy at St Mary's.

Saints chairman Rupert Lowe armed Woodward with the title of director of football, and he was not slow in putting it to use.

It was Woodward who played the major role in recruiting Burley to replace Harry Redknapp, and he wasted little time in culling Saints' coaching staff.

First-team coach Denis Rofe and goalkeeping coach Dave Coles were lopped pre-Christmas, while Redknapp's assistant Kevin Bond, currently on gardening leave, will doubtless follow them in the new year.

The management structure Lowe has put in place is experimental, and runs the risk that a metaphorical blinding flash and loud bang will leave him with a smoke-blackened face and singed eyebrows.

Burley's title of head coach is not just an exercise in word play.

Although he will pick the team and identify any potential transfer targets, he will not be a manager in the traditional English sense of the word, responsible for everything from soup to nuts.

The talk at Burley's confirmation was of teamwork and Woodward dismissed suggestions of him being Burley's superior.

George Burley
Time will tell if Burley and Woodward will flourish

"I don't see myself as George's boss," said Woodward, who in the same sentence carefully qualified exactly what his role is and where he stands in the pecking order.

"As director of football, I'm accountable to the board for everything on the football side of the club, and I will report to them as to what's happening on it."

Burley is no managerial greenhorn and would have ensured that the ground rules and demarcation were in place before accepting the post at St Mary's.

But he will also have seen that somebody with Woodward's knowledge and skills can bring something to the table.

The ploy is to free Burley of the fringe responsibilities, leaving him to concentrate solely on coaching the first team.

Woodward's brief will be to oversee the other aspects of player preparation, such as diet, fitness, and utilising a panoply of scientific technology that would put Nasa to shame.

He will also use his renowned motivational skills to "work with individual players to improve them as individuals".

So while he will not be working with the first-team as a unit, he will be working with first-team players.

But can Woodward keep his hands off first-team affairs?

No doubt Burley and Woodward will step on each other's toes and lines will be crossed.

The difference is that where Redknapp might have felt Woodward was an interfering and meddling football outsider, Burley has got a director of football on his case.

And a director of football who makes no bones that he wants to manage one day.

"Of course, I've still got ambitions along those lines, but that's still some way off yet, at least two or three years," said Woodward.

Or as one wag pointed out, roughly the two-and-a-half year length of Burley's contract.


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