FLP’S BOY SCOUT

Chris Dunlavy goes to scout school to learn how to an­a­lyse a player

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

WANT to know why no­body has stumped up £12m for Black­burn goal king Jor­dan Rhodes? Ask Colin Cham­bers.

“Jor­dan is one of the hard­est play­ers to an­a­lyse that I’ve ever known,” says Cham­bers, a for­mer scout for Bolton and Charl­ton.

“You watch him and there’s not much there. He’s not that quick, he doesn’t hold the ball up with any ex­tra strength, he hasn’t got much in the way of power. He’s not cre­ative. But his fin­ish­ing is in­cred­i­ble and in the right team he will get you 2030 goals a sea­son.

“His big­gest as­set is his fin­ish­ing and all the other at­tributes don’t re­ally mat­ter. But in the mod­ern game clubs are look­ing for more in the player they want to sign.”

Cham­bers dis­penses this wis­dom to a packed class­room in Kirklees Col­lege, a stone’s throw from Hud­der­s­field Town’s John Smith’s Sta­dium.

Tired of see­ing his pro­fes­sion over­run by am­a­teurs and char­la­tans, the jovial York­shire­man now runs IPSO, a com­pany ded­i­cated to de­con­struct­ing this most myth­i­cal of jobs by teach­ing ev­ery­one the se­crets of tal­ent-spot­ting.

Knowl­edge

Colin Hendry at­tended one of Cham­bers’ cour­ses, as did for­mer Black­burn and Scot­land for­ward Kevin Gal­lacher. The Sky pun­dit cred­its the course with “en­hanc­ing” the way he watches foot­ball.

“Clubs ex­pect ex-pro­fes­sion­als to have the knowl­edge, just be­cause they’ve played at a good level,” says Cham­bers, who played semi-pro be­fore learn­ing his trade with Charl­ton.

“But it doesn’t re­ally work like that. The way you watch a game as a scout is to­tally dif­fer­ent to the way you watch it as a man­ager or a coach. It’s all about at­ten­tion to de­tail. Steven Ger­rard is a much bet­ter foot­baller than I ever was, but I guar­an­tee he’d not be as good at spot­ting a player com­pared to a pro­fes­sional scout.”

This au­di­ence con­tains sev­eral track-suited mem­bers of Hud­der­s­field’s Un­der-18 coach­ing staff, two coaches from Brad­ford Park Av­enue, four Chi­nese stu­dents and, of course, me.

Over two days we are guided through ev­ery as­pect of scout­ing: the dif­fer­ences be­tween DVD and live games, how to build data­bases and con­tacts, how to com­pile player and op­po­si­tion re­ports.

A visit is also in­cluded to Hud­der­s­field, where we are de­tailed to study just one player – Charl­ton winger Cal­lum Har­riott – for the en­tire 90 min­utes. Cham­bers’ ad­vice (“even if a player barely touches the ball, you can learn a hell of a lot”) proves sage as the Ad­dicks are bat­tered 5-0.

In­for­ma­tive and in­ter­est­ing, the IPSO course is also pep­pered with anec­dotes from Cham­bers’ days as a scout, both il­lu­mi­nat­ing and cau- tionary. Like the one about a fa­mous Premier League man­ager, whose mind games, it tran­spires, went far be­yond an­tag­o­nis­ing op­po­si­tion man­agers.

“When scout­ing a player, you’ve got to be aware of the team he is in,” said Cham­bers.“A good passer will strug­gle to im­press if his striker isn’t mak­ing runs, or if he’s in a sys­tem that doesn’t suit. It doesn’t make him a bad player.

“Like­wise, a poor player will be el­e­vated by a bad side. If you look back over the years, a cer­tain man­ager would of­ten give a young lad his de­but when the side was at its strong­est.

“Then, af­ter one game, he’d take him out again and wait for the bids to roll in. A mil­lion quid, two mil­lion quid. He knew that kid wouldn’t ever be good enough but he also knew no­body would re­alise. You have to be wise to those kind of tricks.”

Then there was the man­ager who thought he knew best.“A col­league of mine worked for a club who

played a friendly against a lower league side,” re­calls Cham­bers.

“This young lad played re­ally well and, straight af­ter the game, the man­ager walked into the op­po­si­tion dress­ing room and said ‘How much do you want for him?’

“All the scouts shook their heads. If that man­ager had only asked, there were about eight sep­a­rate re­ports on this kid, all say­ing he wasn’t good enough. Ev­ery­body can have one good game, es­pe­cially in a friendly.”

The key to avoid­ing such pit­falls, says Cham­bers, is rep­e­ti­tion and re­turn vis­its. Gone are the days when one wiz­ened doyen would bend the man­ager’s ear.

Top clubs now have ten or more scouts spread through­out the coun­try, all up­load­ing mul­ti­ple re­ports – of­ten on the same play­ers – to on­line data­bases, like Scout7 and Wyscout. No stone is left un­turned.

“Don’t be­lieve th­ese loud­mouths who say ‘I could see he was a player the mo­ment he walked down the stairs’. Or ‘I walked out af­ter ten min­utes and said ‘Sign him up’,” adds Cham­bers.“That’s a load of rub­bish. A good scout will watch a player a min­i­mum of three times be­fore he makes any kind of rec­om­men­da­tion.”

By way of an ex­am­ple, he di­vulges his own scout­ing re­ports on Jamie Vardy, com­piled in 2012 when the Eng­land man – and cur­rent Premier League sen­sa­tion – was ply­ing his trade at Fleet­wood in the Con­fer­ence.

The first ad­vises that Vardy – ‘quick, but not light­ning’ – be mon­i­tored. Two months later, af­ter a hat-trick and a 40-yard lob in a 6-2 win over Ebb­s­fleet, quick has been up­graded to light­ning and the re­port con­cludes with the words ‘sign him’. By that point, how­ever, scouts were out­num­ber­ing fans at High­bury.

Some of Cham­bers’ scout­ing tips are ob­vi­ous. Get the team shape right or ev­ery­thing else will be wrong. Be sus­pi­cious of stats.

One graphic showed a Chelsea game where Cesc Fabre­gas had 78 per cent pass­ing ac­cu­racy, com­pared to John Terry’s 95. The Spa­niard also won a greater per­cent­age of head­ers.

Leg­work

Some are more sub­tle. Is a mid­fielder an an­chor, a screener or a holder? Is a full-back un­ad­ven­tur­ous or just fol­low­ing his boss’ or­ders?

Oth­ers are more left-field: watch Mon­day Night Foot­ball and lis­ten to the pun­dits. Why? It may be Car­ragher and Neville de­liv­er­ing the goods, but it’s pro­fes­sional an­a­lysts like Cham­bers do­ing the leg­work be­hind the scenes.

Over­all it’s an eye-open­ing in­sight into a pro­fes­sion that re­quires mileage, ded­i­ca­tion and a skilled eye.

“I was very lucky to learn from a man at Charl­ton called Ted Davies, one of the best scouts who ever worked in the game.” says Cham­bers. “It is his knowl­edge I’m pass­ing down and I be­lieve it can change the way ev­ery­one – from scouts to jour­nal­ists to sup­port­ers – watches the game.”

So, to the big ques­tion: would Cham­bers rec­om­mend Rhodes, cur­rently a tar­get for Swansea and Sh­effield Wed­nes­day?

“You need to build a side to suit him,” says Cham­bers. “But I tell you one thing, if you put him in a team like Arse­nal, who cre­ate loads of chances, the kid would get 25 a sea­son.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

MAN OF MYS­TERY: Black­burn’s Jor­dan Rhodes scores one of his many goals. In­set below: Scout­ing guru Colin Cham­bers. Bot­tom: Car­ragher and Neville on Sky SCOUT’S HON­OUR: Jamie Vardy left, af­ter his 40-yard lob for Fleet­wood. Right: Our tar­get, Cal­lum Har­riott, on a mis­er­able night for

Charl­ton

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