Chairmen like McCabe part of a dying breed

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TEN months ago, Roberto Di Matteo was touting himself at Bramall Lane after expressing an interest, admittedly through an intermediary, in replacing Micky Adams as manager of Sheffield United.

Now the Swiss-born former Italy international finds himself patrolling Stamford Bridge’s manicured touchline having stepped into Andre Villas-Boas’ shoes at his old club Chelsea.

Satisfying Roman Abramovich’s voracious appetite for domestic silverware and European success is only part of Di Matteo’s job description.

Results, as even luminaries such as Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho discovered to their cost, must also be delivered in a style which rivals one of the oligarch’s opulent flotilla of yachts. A tall order given that Eclipse - the pride of the Russian’s fleet - boasts a luxury spa, submarine and room for 22 guests.

Given Abramovich’s reported desire to involve himself in processes which are tradionally the exclusive preserve of coaching staff - including transfer policy and team selection - it is a job which has been described as a “dream opportunity” or “absolute hell” depending on who you ask.

But when United’s hierarchy opted for Danny Wilson’s flat Lancashire vowels rather than the 41-year-old’s Latin charms, did Di Matteo miss out on an opportunity to work for a chairman who is part of a dying breed in the English game?

Kevin McCabe, Bramall Lane’s major power broker, effectively enjoys the final say on many aspects of first-team affairs, including potential new signings. But only because he holds the pursestrings rather than a deep-rooted desire to involve himself in sporting matters.

Abramovich is not the only owner who overtly bridges the divide between boardroom and bootroom. Nor do such shenanigans only take place in the Premier League.

Several of McCabe’s counterparts in the division United find themselves in now also like to offer advice about who should or shouldn’t start on a Saturday afternoon.

Admittedly, the sum of money McCabe and his family have invested in United pales into insignificance when compared to those the likes of Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour have lavished upon Chelsea and Manchester City. But, given the difference in their respective wealth, it is possible to draw comparison.

McCabe has plenty in common with his counterparts in the capital and the north-west. All, during the course of their tenures, have made some excellent judgement calls. They have also, like any human being, been responsible for more dubious pieces of decision-making.

But within the space of the next decade, we are likely to see fewer and fewer ‘McCabe’s.’ Given football’s changing financial model, it seems inconceivable to think that the influence exerted by its sugar-daddys will not continue to grow.

In what other business would someone hand over a huge chunk of their savings and let someone else decide how it is spent? Indeed the idea that those effectively bankrolling our clubs will happily do so seems positively quaint.