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The Scout – An insight into a much-maligned world

Welcome to The Scout – a new Total Football series that takes a look into the world of match scouts. We’ve signed up a professional scout to give his views on what the job of a scout really involves.

Does anyone really understand what match scouting involves? Is it glamorous? Is match scouting necessary any more with video technology? Is it even necessary anyway?

Scouting - What’s the point?

I have been scouting in football since 2007, it started as a hobby and now I am a professional. It’s been a long journey but I have learnt a lot about people’s perception and gross misunderstanding of what we do and how we do it.

Where to start? I had a chat with a Millwall supporter recently. I have known him for many years and one question he fired at me was: “What’s the point in scouting an opposition?” I replied that it is to gain knowledge on an opponent and how that opponent sets up and what each individual player does during the game.

He laughed, I enquired as to the impromptu hilarity? He said: “What a load of rubbish!” At that point I disengaged and politely ignored his ignorant ranting. Football in truth is about opinions whether you like it or not and this cannot be ignored whether right or wrong.

I started scouting non league football matches for free, paying my own way to a game, paying for the ticket and the normal type of half-time refereshments. But not Bovril. Are you serious? Bovril is a definite 'Marmite' product, hate it or love it it’s a big seller at football matches.

I for one am a coffee drinker and could tell you a few stories about some of the food and coffee I have bought from certain non league grounds.

I digress, scouting has moved on so much in the last few years and it has started to creep into the lower leagues of the non league pyramid. Does a non league team really need to scout a game?

Possibly. If that team is running away with the league then quite possibly not. If they then move up a level in a new league structure then a definite yes! A lot of managers are blind to this fact and have an arrogance that their team can beat anyone, no matter who they are.

These said managers do get found out and/or decide that they need to get out and watch games.

What’s the job of a scout and can I do it? My job is to give an accurate picture of what a team did during a game. From formation to substitutions, to individual performances, to an accurate portrayal of a set play via a diagram.

Scouting is an art 

It’s an art and although a lot of people in football believe its menial job, I can tell you it’s not.

It takes a lot of dedication and patience especially when it’s a dark winter’s night in the middle of nowhere and with no beverages to keep you warm. Yes you can do it and no you don’t need to have a UEFA A or B licence.

I have trained a few scouts and I can tell you this, they where badged up to the hilt but could not give me an accurate picture of the game. All they wanted to do was rectify problems within a team. They soon realised that it was completely the opposite of what they learnt as a coach.

Sadly football is a very insular place and scouting opportunities, especially opposition scouting, are few and far between. I have met a many budding scout who wanted x amount per game straight away, this to me is laughable having spent two years not being paid and learning my craft.

Over the coming weeks I will give you an insight as to what happens when I am at a game and the scouts I meet, as well as those I cross the road to avoid. The new young scouts who do their best to get involved with a conversation, but are so far out of their league and then do the worst thing possible, offer up a 'quality player' who isn't at all.

The old scouts who still have their club’s jacket from the seventies and are more interested in beating other scouts to the hob nobs at half time, than actually watching the game.

In the coming weeks, some of the questions I will answer will include the following: What are my thoughts on AVB’s scouting reports? Do I think the loan system is a good thing? Do I really care? Is video technology the end of scouts as we know it?

If you have any questions please send them in and I will do my best to answer them in my next blog entry – to protect my identity, please email your questions to Total Football’s editor Mark Roach: mark.roach@totalfootballmag.com

The Scout

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