The Scout

Posted: August 11, 2015 in Football
Tags: , ,


Speaking entirely as a novice I am caused occasional frustration when I see the top clubs spending millions on players.

You would think that, as the richest teams in Europe, the top clubs would have the top scouts. If that is the case where are the unknown players? We see the occasional kid being signed at fifteen or sixteen, only to go out on loan for the next three years, then usually get sold as he wasn’t quite good enough for the first team. Scouts obviously attend the youth matches because they need players for their own youth teams but, as has been said a lot lately, where are these players coming through?

Good scouting is more evident from about 8th or 9th place down in the Premier league. It seems that every club from there downwards has a decent scouting system and can bring players through themselves.

The top clubs have youth teams, under 21 teams et al and Manchester United have even given games in the first team to Tyler Blackett, Paddy McNair, Andrea Perreira and James Wilson. Let’s see how many times these kids are used this season. Very prevalent in pre-season, they tend to disappear once the season starts and may do so even more this time when you consider how many new players Manchester United have bought. There is already talk of their best young talent, Adnan Januzaj, going out on loan.

The problem facing the top clubs is that, to stay as top clubs, they cannot afford to wait for youth players to come through so they tend to buy. Again because of the impatience they tend not to buy potential, they buy proven talent and experience.

Another problem facing them is the “home grown” issue. Home grown players do not have to be registered for competition, but a team still has to have a certain amount in it’s squad. Home grown does not necessarily mean English, it just means a player who has been with a club, affiliated to the English or Welsh FA, for three seasons prior to his 21st birthday. This is why any decent 15 and 16 year olds are being snapped up.

So scouting for a top club must mean one of two things. Either you are a youth scout, finding the kids for the future, or you are sitting in the Bernabeu, Nou Camp or Allianz Arena wondering whether Ronaldo is for sale, or Messi, or Robben.

There doesn’t appear to be any middle ground here. In an earlier post I mentioned the players Tommy Docherty bought as manager of Manchester United. They were unknowns, they weren’t kids they were all ready for the first team and most of them came from a lower division. Docherty had great scouts who would unearth talent in any division in Britain, (there were few, if any, foreign players back then).

Where are these type of scouts now? Does it really come back to the top clubs only buying proven talent? It must do. They obviously don’t want the risk of taking lower league players who then don’t make it. Although it would save them millions in transfer fees, it may cost them millions in lost revenue if it doesn’t work.

So basically, the risk versus reward culture of today’s top football clubs means that the job description for a scout is either find us a talented kid, or find us a superstar who is for sale. The middle ground, at this level at least, has gone.

  1. Do you think it’s anything to do with a lack of job security/transitional managers? At least at the big clubs.

    Managers are under such pressure to bring silverware or financial reward into clubs that they don’t think about the long term future of the club. Louis van Gaal for example, is only staying until 2017 so perhaps he has less interest in securing the future than succeeding in the present.


    • Yes, Sam, I think that has a lot to do with it. Managers nowadays don’t get long contracts at the big clubs, unless you are David Moyes at United, and look how that contract turned out. They are hired to provide almost instant success so no, they haven’t got the time to wait for the kids to come through. I think van Gaal, for example, tried them in pre-season and decided none of them were ready for a regular first team place, so he has gone into the market big time. If he had been given a six year contract, like Moyes, he would most certainly have been more patient because he would still have got longer than Moyes because of his stature in the game.
      Thanks for your comment.


      • Tbh, I know it was my example but LvG isn’t the best example because he was always going to be a short term solution as knew he was retiring after – plus he has given youth a chance in defence last year and it didn’t work out. I agree now though that perhaps he thinks they’re not ready. Januzaj played most of the season for Moyes and was excellent yet he was being considered for loan. Youth need to play if they’re going to be great; imagine if Cristiano wasn’t given his chance.

        An interesting example is Rodgers at Liverpool who has tried to give young players their chance despite being under pressure.


  2. The thing with Rodgers is that most of his big money signings failed in the first season. Lambert couldn’t get in the team even though Sturridge was injured, Lovren was rubbish, Lallana was in and out, and that’s just three. Rodgers didn’t have a lot of choice but to give some of the youngsters a chance. So this is another straw that the kids can grasp. A failed transfer window will give them a chance, at least until the next transfer window.


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