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The Modern Scout & What They look For

11.08.2020 @Saul Cuttell

I had the unique opportunity to gain some insights from a very experienced scout, Ged Searson, who is not only an experienced coach but also a scout with over 25 years working in the industry. He has worked with many professional teams from Barnet, Gillingham, Grimsby and West Ham FC. He has even worked in Europe under the tutorage of one the greatest coaches and ex-players who has ever lived--- Bobby Robson! If that was not enough, he has also learnt from one of the most innovative and forward-thinking managers of recent times, Sam Alladyce. Ged said he has learnt so much from these footballing titans which really has set him up well in the industry he excels in, even to the extent that he now runs his own business, and very affordable workshops (see link here).

So, when I had the chance to speak to such an insightful and experienced scout, I could not miss the opportunity. My first question was based on something that has recently fascinated me---- what exactly is the biggest problem that a scout faces today in these modern times? Especially when you factor in the recent pandemic that has recently affected us all. Ged was very clear in what he said, and stated ‘’the role of a scout has changed recently, it used to be about just going out to watch games and very much based on the scout’s experience. Now the role has changed in that there are now video scouts, practical scouts, statistically based scouts, recruiters and so many involved in the process’’. He was very complimentary of all the roles and went on to say that ‘’they are all vital in finding players, but there probably needs to be a balance between the more traditional methods of scouting by going out and watching games, but also with the use of statistics and videos. The game and the process is changing so we need to move with the times but also remain balanced in the approach’’. This really made me interested even more in how scouts are actually looking for talent while being stuck at home, and I really wanted to tell him more about Pitch, but I refrained for now as I was captivated by the insights of his experience.

This led me to ask what was the most inspirational player he ever came across. I really did not realise this was a very common question for scouts and indeed not a very thought provoking one at all. I was wanting or expecting an answer like ‘’I found Wayne Rooney’’ or similar, but instead I got a much more insightful answer, very similar to Reenen Moonen’s answer (Man UTD scout). Ged went on to say ‘’finding one player doesn’t really happen like that anymore, the way you scout is for all players, looking in all positions, watching the whole game and even looking at the substitutes.’’ He went on to explain that he was involved in the process of finding Dean Henderson, Declan Rice (Declan Rice was actually recommended on loan to Grimsby Town from West Ham FC but was not taken up by the Grimsby Town manager with the player going on to play for England) and Matteo Guendouzi (recommended to several clubs in the Premier league while he was playing for Lorient in the French second Division before he moved to Arsenal) to name just a few. Ged has been involved with many other players, but he was very humble and endearing in his approach to the whole process. I was still quite resolute with discussing attributable qualities that somewhat determine talent or success in a football player, so I asked what factors contribute to a successful player. Again, Ged’s answer did not fail to capture my attention. He promptly responded with ‘’ there is the obvious basic task such as positioning, scoring goals, assists, through balls-- then there are secondary tasks such as work rate off the ball, and if the player is defensive minded.’’  He went on to say ‘’ there are also factors such as the individual and how they react to winning, losing, their awareness, their mental toughness, how they communicate to team players, the manager, the opposition and also how they react to being substituted or losing the ball---there really is so much we look at as scouts’’. This was so intriguing, as I am sure many players out there think it’s just about how they play when really there is so much more that goes into the whole process. This made me wonder about the players that do get released from academies and why they may fall foul of such a thing, so I asked earnestly if scouts are ever interested in released players? Ged said ‘’yes sometimes, but it depends on the player and the club’’. So, really there is so much more to think about when players are released, but the problem was that I was not quite finished yet. I wanted to ask Ged about my website but also the potential of running a combination-based trial day that would incorporate a fitness trial, a psychological profiling, an interview of players, a coaching session and 3 trial games over a weekend period. He said he would be very interested in watching such an event, so I was very enthused by this and thought it would be great to touch base with him again in the future. Which is brilliant given that the network of scouts on Pitch is constantly growing, and like Rene Moonen said ‘’scouts like to watch football, network and see that the players have fun or enjoy playing the beautiful game’’ (see previous blog here).

The conversation was coming to a natural end, but I really was interested to know what Ged thought of how clubs look after the mental health of released players or indeed take this into account? Ged was again very forthcoming and stated ‘’clubs take a much bigger interest in players mental health and well being these days, they cannot just release a player and leave them to their own devices anymore. A lot of clubs provide excellent exit care strategies but also, they have a duty of care to the players that progress too’’ this fascinated me, so I had to ask, what exactly do you mean? Again, Ged’s answer did not fail to deliver. He said, ‘’ players that progress from academy football to first team football have all new challenges such as playing against a seasoned professional, who may well be thinking about his contract, and therefore the ultimate need to win the ball, score a goal or be a success on the field, compared to a player that played in academy football and may not have been exposed to such a competitive environment’’. He went on to say ‘’some academies and under 23’s squads have developed a more pacey, rougher, fast approach to their game to great success just like the Everton under 23’s of recent years, who won the league by a country mile’’. This left me pondering over why so many players get released, the old reserve leagues that we used to have in abundance in the UK and how players dealt with these challenges then too? I certainly remember being 17 and playing in a men’s game and getting my a*se handed to me by a seasoned semi-professional player when playing for a men’s team. It was a shock to the system just in terms of how much more physical it was, but I soon learned I had other characteristics and abilities that allowed me to excel, such as pace and overall match fitness. 

So, I thought I would round up the conversation with Ged's best piece of advice for any player that has been released. He simply and pleasingly said ''for any young player at a club to go out  on loan to clubs where you get experience playing in a competitive mens game. Do not sit in a 23's squad''. He also offered advice on released players wanting to break back into football, ''to go out and watch matches where you see players battling and fighting for a living in the lower leagues, this will help you see how to improve too''.  It would seem that the best advice a young player can have in my summarisation of our chat is to get as much experience as they can, go out and battle for a position, work hard, play hard but also enjoy what you do.