Why were you attracted to scouting?
Well, I was never much of a player. I’d always enjoyed football, enjoyed watching football and playing with my mates. One day I was on the metro going to work and I was reading the free newspaper. They had an article from one of their writers who had been on the PFSA courses. After reading it when I was at work all I was thinking was it’s one of those jobs that’s untouchable, you know it exists but you never know how to get into it. I was sat at work and I started digging around a little bit, going online, reading what other people had wrote. I got home at night and started telling my wife all about it. She said if you’re interested why not see if you can give it a go. So what I did was I emailed the Northern League Secretary and I asked him to forward an email on that basically said that I was looking for practical experience of scouting, I’d never done it before but it’s something I want to get into. Luckily a couple clubs got back to me but one club, Ryton & Crawcrook Albion, their club secretary invited me down to their match at the weekend and it all went from there really.
I think every football fan feels as though they can become scout. Do you think it’s unfair to think that scouting is an easy job?
A lot of people think the entire idea of scouting is you just watch football. Of course that’s a big part of it but it’s how you do it, it’s how you go about watching it. It’s all the bits on top of that, planning matches, how you get there, preparing yourself, doing background research into teams and players and then writing your report. It’ not just a two second job where you say player four was good, player number five was poor, player number six is someone we should watch again and I think a lot of people don’t register that when they think ‘I’d like to give scouting a go’.
Clubs will have almost like a club specific language and have things they want you to look for, things they are wanting you to observe and write. One of things I was told was to try and stay away from subjective wording and subjective phrasing. It’s really hard to get away from going he’s good at this or he is poor at that because my idea of good might be your idea of average, might be my chief scout’s idea of very good. That’s one of the things I’ve tried to change in my report, just say what you see not your interpretation of it. It’s really difficult to get into that rhythm of writing your notes and watching what you’re watching.
You started your career with Ryton & Crawcrook Albion, what other clubs have you worked for?
I worked for Wolverhampton Wanderers academy doing academy stuff round the North-East of England, they were restructuring at the time and were looking to bring new people in, so I did that for a season. I did a little bit of work for St Mirren covering the North-East of England non-league for players. Then I went to Crawley and I did opposition scouting, I’d been put forward by someone I’d done work for that lasted a season. Next was Brentford, they were looking for video scouts and they didn’t have anyone in the North-East of England so I got to go to some live football for them as well. This season I have been working for Fylde, my friend went in as head of recruitment and he asked me to come across for player scouting and opposition scouting. It’s not a very secure industry football, that’s something I always say to people who ask me about getting into it. If you think you’re going to be in a job for a long time then kick that idea straight out because it’s such an insecure place to work but I good place to get involved in.
What changes have you noticed since starting your scouting career?
Most forward thinking clubs are moving towards merging data and traditional scouting. You’ll see on social media putting up in depth reports on teams that include a lot of screen grabs, include a lot of data as well as the visual scouting of what they’ve seen and their interpretation of what they’ve seen. The lower you go down ( the pyramid) that option of having analysis of a match isn’t as readily available because footage of the match isn’t as readily available. When we were doing stuff for Fylde we should have been able to get access of videos of all our opposition. Whether we could was a different question so there’s still more eyes on reporting at lower leagues.
The same for recruitment, what clubs should be doing in my opinion is using data to take a shortlist of players from hundreds or thousands to a hand full, which then you can go through to watch matches or clips to build that portfolio on that player that you want to sign. Clubs in the lower leagues are starting to pick up on that idea as well, so it’s no longer just your premier league clubs or your championship clubs that are doing that, it’s now league 1, league 2 and even national league teams doing it because the datas available. Secondly, you don’t necessarily have to be in that country to work for a club anymore.
If you’re working off data, off video, you can be anywhere. As long as you’ve got an internet connection and a computer you can be anywhere in the world working for a club in another part of the world. As seen on social media Ashwin in India is currently working for Dundee United. If you know what you’re doing and you’re willing to put the work and effort in, yes you need a little bit of luck, but you don’t have to be living on the doorstep of a club or even in the same continent as the club you’re working for to able to be utilised by a forward thinking club.