PODCAST: Assembling your First Team Squad Ahead of the New Season

With the 5th of August looming, hundreds of transfers are being completed across all levels of the game as clubs get their first team squads assembled and ready for the new season.

When players are being recruited for the new campaign, planning is integral to the recruitment process. It can often take up to eighteen months of work behind the scenes in order to land a transfer target, so starting early is key to assembling a squad before the new season.

For example, Huddersfield Town’s promotion-winning season (16/17) began with twelve out of fourteen new players being signed early, before the start of pre-season. This gave the players a period of time to adjust to a new environment and adapt to their new team’s philosophy.

To successfully execute such a long-term strategy, stability at a club is critical but there are scenarios where a club will elect to change their Manager or Head Coach during a close season. A change in management can see approaches to recruitment within a club change. For example, a new foreign coach may take a different outlook towards overseas recruitment, which while not without its risks, can result in successful acquisitions such as the German duo of Chris Löwe and Michael Hefele at Huddersfield Town.

Player Recruitment will vary from club to club, which will include the number parameters put in place to identify potential targets. In most cases, the profiling of players will take into account the player’s position and the style of play that that the club is looking to adopt. At the bigger clubs, managers may not be totally hands-on in the process of signing a player either, although they will of course have the final say on the transfer. Therefore their scouting staff are required to present players that fit the manager’s profile, as well as being affordable within the club’s financial means.

Given the scale of work necessary in successfully executing a summer recruitment strategy, we have assembled a highly experienced trio of industry professionals to discuss close-season recruitment on the latest edition of the Scout7 podcast.

The panel includes Stuart Webber, who was responsible for overseeing Huddersfield’s successful programme last summer and is now trying to do the same thing at his current club, Norwich City, where he is Sporting Director. He is joined by Steve Head, who was most recently Chief Scout of Charlton Athletic in League One, having previously spent four years as Reading’s Head of Scouting and Recruitment.

The final participant is Ian Atkins, who held scouting roles at Sunderland and Everton over a period of 10 years before joining Aston Villa last summer, as their Head of European Recruitment.

Prior to working as a scout, Atkins also spent fifteen years working as a Manager in the Football League at nine different clubs, so he also has first-hand experience of working in an environment where the Manager is more hands-on in player recruitment, operating with a narrower pool of recruitment channels.

It makes him perfectly placed to talk about the importance of acting quickly when trying to recruit players, particularly those available on a free transfer and flagging up the identity of potential Bosman transfers up to a year before their contract is due to expire.

The panel also talk about the challenges of working at a lower league club in recruiting players who are released from Premier League Academies, specifically when identifying whether a young player has the character or mentality required to survive in the lower-tiers.

They also debate the importance of monitoring the non-leagues and the value of the loan market, specifically after the abolishment of the emergency loan system. Interestingly, they highlight how the market for non-league players has changed in recent years, as players are becoming more and more expensive to recruit, both in terms of fees and wages. However, we are still seeing the likes of Rickie Miller, 28, returning to the Football League, following his move from Dover Athletic to Peterborough United this summer.

Interwoven in the loan discussion is a wider debate over the merits of the recruitment strategies adopted by leading clubs who sign players and then send them out on loan. It may be unlikely that they will ever make more than just a few first team appearances for their parent club, but if they are recruited for a relatively modest fee and then sold on for a substantial profit is that sound business planning?

It all makes for an entertaining listen. You can hear it in full by clicking on the player at the bottom of the page.

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by Sam Dickinson Guest Blogger

Published 13 July 2017