So after a bit of role-shuffling, we finally appointed Michael Emenalo to the full time post of Technical Director at the beginning of last season. The bulk of his duties involved being in-charge of the club's scouting program, including pursuing priority targets himself, along with a bit of academy structure management.
Now at the time of appointment, he wasn't really marked as one boasting ace credentials for the job, but a year on, I think the guy's done a fair bit adding his own flavour to the team's well underway personnel revolution.
To be honest, there isn't a whole lot in the way of direct links between Emenalo and all of our signings over the past season, but it'd be a pretty fair statement to say he's been quite involved and basically right in the mix with each & every capture. I mean, come on, restaurants just don't function without a head chef do they?
As already noted, the first significant move of Emenalo's stint was the rapid redistribution of duties carried out within the scouting program, with the recruitment of Scott McLachlan from Fulham & Mick Doherty from Everton to boost the club's domestic & European departments respectively. The size of the department was trimmed while the best of the lot were put in the driving seats.
Two prominent things I'd say Emenalo deserves credit for are cutting the impending transfer sagas of Lukaku & De Bruyne short. We'd been linked to both for a steady year prior to his appointment, and shortly after, a deal for Lukaku was swiftly concluded, while KDB followed suit a window later.
While AVB was the mouthpiece of the paradigm shift that was our new youth-centered transfer policy, Emenalo for me is again the one who takes the marks for contributing from the core of it. Often for young talent across various leagues, a Young Player/Achiever/Etc of the Year award is the instant springboard to becoming the next big hot prospect [see Neymar, Hazard, Vrsaljko], so credit to Emenalo & his team for snapping up Thibaut Courtois before a rival shark could so much as bat an eyelid. Special mention to the capture of Patrick Bamford in a loosely similar circumstance.
Courtois was an excellent catch to kick things off, and soon Ulises Davila & eventually Kenneth Omeruo followed. Emenalo also deserves plenty of credit for personally supervising the club's loan policy, even down to receiving training reports, ensuring just about all of our youngsters abroad have found suitable leagues & heaps of playing time to keep their developments on expected track. The loan moves of Kakuta to Bolton & PvA to Wigan weren't questionable choices to begin with, but then again, it was impossible to have seen coming the tangles the clubs got themselves mired in.
The signing of Marko Marin was another excellent piece of business handled by Emenalo & his department of merry men. Urgent & on-the-quiet, it also carried a little illustration of exactly how advance planned an approach is being ushered in at the club, since non-window purchases for the senior team was something Chelsea were barely known for doing. The subsequent signing of Hazard was the crown jewel, but I wouldn't call that so much a novel Emenalo idea at all since we had strong interest from a far earlier stage.
Looking at things back home, the academy & the youth system, his role last year appeared to be of a monitoring capacity, with both assistant first team coach Steve Holland & reserve manager Dermot Drummy, along with youth team manager Adi Viveash reporting to him. We won the FA Youth Cup on the back of a series of tantalizing performances, so, eh, Michael, whatever you were doing, you doin' it right!
Umm, in other news, the academy's building more houses and stuff. No, Emenalo will not pick the drapes.
All in all, it's been a highly productive year in the staff back-quarters for Chelsea, everything kept nicely ticking by our new Technical Director, we've been continually linked to the best & the brightest, while our youth team & academy have gone from strength to strength, even boasting possibly the best assortment of U18 talent in the country.
Things are only going to get more arduous for him, what with NextGen, the revamped Reserve League & the additional responsibilities EPPP will bring looming, but all contributions thus far considered, the man who the tabloids had cynically introduced as a kiddie-girl team chaperone [read coach] when he finally got the push for the top job has certainly shown he has the goods and know-how to not only keep up, but also become an important pillar in what are a tottering few initial steps toward a much needed policy progression & structural overhaul.
Ah yes, having the owner's ear counts too. Having to stand beside bad breath Gourlay all the time does not.