PODCAST: What are the key attributes required to be an elite professional scout?

Given the near astronomical sums which are now involved in the recruitment of a player, the importance of signing the right individual, meeting the club’s profile criteria, is arguably more important now than it has ever been before.

Whilst a collective recruitment department, which now encompasses a variety of staff possessing different skills and expertise, work together to identify and target players meeting their short, medium and long-term requirements, it is worth asking given how the industry has evolved, have the main attributes required for the scouts working on the ground changed at all in recent years?

To try and find out, we have assembled a group of three professional scouts to discuss this in the latest edition of the Scout7 podcast, who are all currently working for clubs in the Football League Championship.

The first member of the panel is Huddersfield Town’s Chief Scout Josh Marsh, who was involved in the club’s recruitment of fourteen new players in the summer, including six from overseas. He is joined by Gil Prescott, who has been involved in professional football for over 50 years and first started scouting over 30 years ago with Blackpool, in a time where scouts researched players using the annual Football Yearbook and posted hand-written reports to their clubs.

Contrasts: Contemporary report player comments (right), alongside an example from 1979

Completing the trio is Harry Hooman, who is in his first year on the scouting circuit, having been forced to retire early as a professional player two years ago as a result of injury.

In addition to talking about the basic fundamentals which make-up the art of scouting, the scouts also talk about the importance of understanding the nature of the industry and being able to put things into context whilst going about their work. This is particularly prevalent given the emergence of match data now available to support a scout’s decision making: working out which stats are relevant to objectively analyse a performance, from those which are not, is vital.

It is also clear that having the conviction to back your own judgements is absolutely crucial too – employing people to sit on the fence or be easily swayed by the opinions of others is counter-productive.

The Podcast Panel: Left to Right, Harry Hooman, Gil Prescott and Josh Marsh

They also highlight how although coaching and scouting require different skillsets, both skillsets can help to inform and support each other. This is interesting for a number of reasons, particularly given that whilst an industry approved coaching pathway is in place for aspiring young coaches based on badges and qualifications, there isn’t an industry-standard equivalent for people looking to get into scouting.

To emphasise the point, both Marsh and Hooman talk about how they went about getting involved in professional scouting after their playing careers came to an end. Both of them initially had to start working voluntarily at clubs, to prove their abilities and earn the trust of senior recruitment staff. It is an insight which anyone with aspirations of working in scouting should listen to before embarking on their journey.

Finally, they also look at the emergence of the role of the technical scout during the last decade and the knock-on effect they have had on the scout’s skill-set.

The discussion makes for a fascinating listen, which you can do by clicking on the player at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to listen to this podcast using your smartphone or tablet, you can subscribe via the iTunes App: search for ‘The Scout7 Podcast’. Once you subscribe you can listen to all previous episodes available in our archive for free. You will also receive automatic notifications when new episodes are available.

by Andy Cooper PR & Project Manager

Published 08 December 2016