do scouts look for in a player?
"The very first thing I looked
for in a player is his first touch and close control. With some boys, their second touch is a tackle! Good players have their
heads up, receive the ball and are looking to make the next pass straight away. It's down to natural ability.
It's great if a player has a few
tricks up his sleeve, but it depends how he's using them. But some players want to do three tricks before they even get the
ball. By doing that, they slow the game down, allowing the opposition defence to get back in position. I might see a kid doing
keepy uppies in the park, with all the tricks in the book, but I'd never invite him for a trial on the back of that. In that
case, I'd ask the boy whether he played for a club, and if he says "yes", I’d think about going and have a look at him.
You can only judge a player by
what he does on the football field, but it's getting harder. With less football being played at schools, and a whole range
of other distractions like computer games, there is a real shortage of naturally skilful players. A lot of the games I watch
are much of a muchness. It's a real bonus if a player stands out.
After technique the next most
important thing is pace. Defenders, strikers and even goalkeepers need it - young players have to be athletes nowadays. When
I'm on a scouting mission, I am specifically looking for a quick change of pace, a burst of speed that will beat a player,
or change a game in an instant.
Young boys can lose some of their
pace as they grow, but often we'll take a gamble -at that age, size and strength are less important.
The next thing I look at is
what a player does when he hasn't got the ball. I'm looking for the boy with his head up, who's moving into space to get the
ball, making runs that give his team-mate options or draw his opponents out of position. I'm also looking for players who,
when they've passed the ball, move quickly to get it back. Good players never stand still, they are always looking to get
involved with the play.
On top of movement, there's awareness.
Some players instinctively know where to play the ball, and where their team-mates are or should be. I'm looking for the player
who plays the first time pass without always taking a touch. That's awareness. I'm also looking for the striker who doesn't
have to look up to find out where the goalie is, because his instincts tell him whether to chip or place it.
if you've seen pace, technique and movement, the final piece of the jigsaw is temperament. Will they be able to handle playing
in front of 50,000 people? I'm looking for boys who are in control as well as ones who don't mind getting wet and muddy! One’s
who'll be clattered and won't make a meal of it if they aren't injured. Boys who encourage their team-mates, and drive them
The ones that don't work off the
ball are difficult to consider. They might make a good pass, but they'll think "that'll do, that's my bit done." We call this
ball watching; some players find it difficult to change this. I want to see a will to win and a desire. I like to see that
Roy Keane look in a boy's eyes. That's a good indication he's got the right attitude and a chance of making it. It's not just
about being good enough, you've got to have the hunger and desire to take away you all the way.
Temperament is tricky one for a
scout. Ideally you don't want a boy who loses it on the pitch, but plenty of temperamental players have made great footballers.
If he's got the ability, you have to go with your gut feeling!
you might have sat through a thousand games before you find a boy who's got all that, but the hard work is only the beginning.
You don't really know what you've got on your hands until you've brought him into the club for a trail and got him playing
with boys of a similar standard. Scouting is not an exact science. You can never be sure whether a player will be good enough,
but if you are lucky enough to find a nugget, It makes all those hours of standing in the freezing cold worthwhile. That's
what gives the scout a real sense of achievement, something to be proud of."