Up to this lunchtime, the Hatters’ board had already received more than 60 applications for what CEO Gary Sweet describes as one of the most “attractive” jobs in football compared to when the search was on for John Still’s replacement just over three years ago.
Speaking at the pre-Sunderland press conference at The Brache, Gary reflected on the differences between the current recruitment process and those undertaken previously.
“We’ve got a very finely tuned process,” he said. “It’s quite a slick operation when these things happen, so given the fact that I said earlier that it didn’t come as a surprise, we have clearly been doing quite discreet homework in the background.
“Nothing that would be disrespectful to Nathan, but I think for any chief exec at a football club not to keep an eye on potential future candidates for manager, coaches and other football staff going forward would be quite unprofessional. So we’ve been doing that.
“We know a lot of people in the game, we have been monitoring certain individuals, just in the same way that we monitored Nathan back then.
“So we are down the line. Not necessarily down the line with any individual, but we also do things the right way. We create a waiting list of criteria so we have a set list of characteristics which is agreed between a small steering group.
“So far, just yesterday, I think it was over 60 applicants and we had probably nearly 50 before it was even announced – that’s the way football works. There isn’t a shortage of people interested in the job, and if you go back, when Nathan was appointed, we were something like 86th in the football pyramid.
“We were in portakabins at Ely Way on the training pitch and we were anchored to Kenilworth Road.
“Today we are 46th in the pyramid, we’ve got a fantastic facility at The Brache here – a brand new spanking training facility that is going to be the manager’s environment, and we’ve just heard that we are going to get a recommendation for Power Court from the planning department.
“It’s a completely different prospect to the one we had three years ago, so what does that mean? That means we are going to get a higher calibre of manager apply for this position.
“This is a very, very attractive club to come to, and other managers know that as a board we don’t interfere with transfer activity, other than the negotiation and getting the best deal. We don’t interfere in team selection. Managers like that, they want that autonomy.
“So we are an attractive proposition to people coming in. Managers know that. That’s the reason why we’ve had so many, so quickly. So we won’t be doing 60 interviews. We will, very very quickly, with our knowledge of those people, filter that down and see where we are.
“There might be in that list one candidate that stands out. Separately, there might be a couple of targets that we are keeping tabs on that we might think ‘Actually, nobody’s really touched that, let’s go and head hunt’, so that’s where we are at the moment. Decisions being made.”
When asked about timescales, with January being a massive month – one that Gary has already described as potentially the most important in the club’s history – with decisions from the council due on the planning applications for the new stadium and Newlands Park, as well as important league and FA Cup matches.
He continued: “The biggest two fixtures are the planning committees. That’s where I’ve got to be spending some time, and it’s all very well saying football’s like that – football doesn’t normally have two planning committees in one month, and that month being a transfer window.
“It’s a testing month. I’ve had easier months and I might sleep on February 1st – oh no, that’s a board meeting actually – so I might sleep on the 2nd of February, but we’ll take it in our stride, we’ll deal with it.
“I thrive on stress. Other people here thrive on stress. We like it being busy. We don’t want it being quiet. If your life is busy, you’re doing something right, so January is like this because we are successful at the moment. In terms of timing, we will appoint the right person the second we see it.”