Since Stuart Webber made the decision to leave “through the back-door” (as our beloved former Head Coach put it) to join Norwich as head of recruitment in January 2017, our recruitment strategy has been, quite frankly, a mess.
After Webber’s departure, we limped to the end of the season and subsequent promotion without a Head of Recruitment. We were then told by Dean Hoyle that the right candidate had been found but he had a 3-month notice period and along came David Moss from Scottish giants Celtic in June 2017.
A man who had been responsible for signings like Virgil Van Dyk as well as securing major loan-coups like Man City starlet Patrick Roberts, there was a case for optimism.
The new organisational structure of Head of Footballing Operation and Head Coach which David Wagner himself had been influential in creating at the club to mirror the German model seemed like a further example of the way the club was progressing.
Whilst we can’t say for certain who had the final say on transfer targets and incomings, Moss did oversee signings like Steve Mounie, Laurent Depoitre, Jonas Lossl, Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen and Danny Williams from Reading.
In their first season, all these players either became permanent fixtures, contributed to Town’s survival season and most importantly, improved the quality of the first-team and the squad.
Despite some of these players decline in form this season, purely on the basis of that season and their achievements, Moss’s work can certainly be looked at positively.
However, Moss’s tenure was to be short-lived.
Just five months after joining, in October 2017 Moss left the club abruptly and without prior rumblings about his position.
This departure coincided with the decision by the club to close the Academy and restructure our youth development to strictly U-17s and above.
Whilst speculating on if this had a part to play in Moss’s departure would be problematic, one cannot help but think the two might be connected.
Dean Hoyle commented on Moss’s departure in an interview on BBC Radio Leeds to explain the club’s decision to close the academy by saying “it just didn’t work out” with no other reasoning given.
We can certainly take him at his word but in football and life, it isn’t as simple as that.
Whether Wagner didn’t get on with Moss, Moss disagreed with the club’s decision to close the academy or other reasons we as fans don’t know about, it certainly seemed a curious one, to say the least.
Another half a season passed without a Head of Recruitment. Despite this, we made two signings that would be crucial in our survival season; defender Terrence Kongolo on loan from AS Monaco and attacking midfielder Alex Pritchard in an £8m transfer from Norwich.
Come May 2018 and with survival in the Premier League secured, Olaf Rebbe was appointed to mixed fanfare. He had been tarnished with an unwanted stain on his reputation with the recent decline of Wolfsburg where he had also been Head of Recruitment and many Wolfsburg fans blamed him for the poor signings and the club fired him after his unsuccessful attempt to hire general manager Horst Heldt from Bundesliga rivals Hannover.
Many Town fans were willing to give him a chance but the summer signings did not endear him to the Town faithful.
Whether he had a direct hand in selecting or signing any of them is again, something we can’t say for certain but the poor summer signings in the close season have played a significant part in our demise this season.
Nearly all of our signings, except full-back Erik Durm and the permanent signing of Terrence Kongolo, have either failed to make an impact, have been loaned out already, have failed to improve the quality of the first-team squad or a combination of all three.
Midfielder Juninho Bacuna was bought as a development signing from Dutch side Groningen and has shown signs of significant promise but his signing is an example of our mistake in this transfer window.
By moving away from hungry 24-26 year olds with something to prove and signing 19-23 year old players who clearly need time to adjust and develop their game (something you can’t allow in great measure in the Premier League), we sold ourselves massively short and gave Head Coach David Wagner very little options to bring off the bench in games to make a difference or rotate his squad properly.
Trusted lieutenants like Christopher Schindler, Jonathan Hogg, and Aaron Mooy never got a rest as he relied on them too heavily for producing Town performances and results.
In this instance, Rebbe certainly must be held at least partially responsible for the failures in the transfer window.
The murkiness surrounding what Rebbe was actually responsible for is also worth commenting on. Whilst Wagner also holds responsibility for the failure to recruit properly, many Town fans were confused as to the amount of influence Rebbe actually had.
He very rarely did media interviews and did not give any forms of insight into the process itself or how things were generally going, leaving the fans in a knowledge vacuum which we struggled to fill.
Indeed, when Wagner tragically left the club via mutual consent last week, Rebbe left the club shortly afterward in a move by the club to signify a clean break from the previous era.
Whilst this move is commendable, it begs the question: what did Rebbe even do in his short time at the club?
These unanswered questions will have left a lot of Town fans pontificating about what comes next.
We already have a manager’s slot to fill as well as his back-room staff and I’m in no doubt that whomever he is, will want a say in who the new Head of Recruitment is.
It certainly makes for interesting, if not slightly concerning times ahead.