PLAYER REPORT – MATT CLARKE (Portsmouth FC)

Something we have been doing now for agents and clubs at The Scouting Network – Our subjective reports which are fully customisable to suit any needs.

Matt Clarke has impressed at Portsmouth this season, although the club has struggled to secure a win since New Years Day, he is one of the promising stars within the side who currently sit 4th in the league table.

I saw him vs Bradford City (a) and he stood out. Excellent reading of the play, positioning, aerially ability and mobility when tracking across the back line. His distribution was exceptional and measured either when short or long.

His character was one who is quite calm and composed and this seemed to have an effect throughout the side, in what turned out to be a tight 1-0 win for Pompey.

Left footed, physical, aerially dominant and just 22 years old. Ticks a lot of boxes in regards to playing Championship, or dare I say, Premier League football.

Graphics courtesy of Gareth Cooper https://www.gcanalytics.net/

How do we identify a League 1 player in to a potential player for a Premier League side? For me, composure and reading of the play is vital. Pace helps (given the level of opponents) whilst obvious traits like distribution and range of passing is a must. However, how do we measure the mentality? Matt is comfortable at this level, having dropped from a Championship club in Ipswich (albeit amassing just a handful of appearances) whilst he joined Portsmouth in League 2 made the step up and not looked out of place whatsoever.

Personally (and as a Portsmouth fan) I don’t want to see the guy go anywhere, however with clubs already linked (yes, Premier League included) it won’t before long he makes a step up once again, with or without Portsmouth.


As mentioned, The Scouting Network have been providing such player reports upon request (This Matt Clarke is an example and no requested reports will even been used publicly) so if you are looking to obtain player information/reports please contact dan@thescoutingnetwork.co.uk

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How time flies…

It’s been over 4 years since my last post here and it’s made me release a couple of things. How excited and hopeful I was for a career in scouting. Since those days, I have become quite cynical and learnt many surprising aspects within the game. Not all of them positive.

Wayne Rooney

I don’t want my first post back after all these years to be a complete boring downer, but this little time capsule has made me feel quite nostalgic.

This blog will continue, however I will be positive and sharing insights! Let’s do this!

THE SCOUTING COMMUNITY

In recent weeks, a number of factors have come in to play and set my poor little brain in to thinking. This all stems from an article I wrote on LinkedIn in regards to the current climate of scouting, particularly within football clubs, which touched upon exploitation and a volunteer culture which, after reading a huge volume of comments to the article, is an opinion that is sadly broadly shared.

My “Jerry Maguire moment” as I have started to call it, came one Friday morning when I opened up a Word document and spilled my brains. I just typed and out it came. The stories I had heard, the past experiences I had been through all contributed to an article which was intended to ask questions of the game we so dearly love and the scouting industry of which we are so passionate and dedicated.

The response to this article far exceeded what I was expecting. The comments were in full agreement and opened up many more questions. More and more stories emerged – NONE were positive.

From this article, I received an email from Paul Reilly, a producer at Rock Sport Radio which is based in central Scotland. I was asked to go on the show and share my views on current scouting methods. I was extremely nervous, but after some persuasion from my better half, I agreed to go on. The host, Bill Young, set my nerves at ease and I was able to relax and let my words flow. He made some excellent points – one of which was “How difficult is it to increase the value of a scout?” followed by “Isn’t scouting to a degree, a self-perpetuating situation?”.

These were the right questions to ask I felt. It is important to realise self-value, but also value from those asking you to do the job. Are we glutton for punishment? Do we come across as over-enthusiastic to the point of being easily exploited and is that the self-perpetuating career in which we have ‘chosen’ to embark upon.

All these questions and all the responses from the original article spurred me in to action, which is where The Football Scouting Forum was born from. Your stories, all the questions that are still begging to be answered. It was born out of this.

I fully intend to set up a podcast in the very near future, something which will hopefully create an actual voice within the world of scouting. Scouting is a very complex entity of football, it’s growing, it’s embracing technology, it has evolved in a million different ways, yet in many respects and within many establishments, remains in the dark ages.

WHY CLUBS NEED TO START REWARDING SCOUTS BY PAYING FOR COMMITMENT, ENTHUSIASM AND DILIGENCE.

Every day I wake up and feel hugely fortunate that I work within the football industry, watching games and players for a living. I worked hard to get to where I am, and although I don’t own a 6-bedroom house in Cheshire with a fleet of supercars garnishing the extensive driveway, I am reminded of the famous quote “If you love your job, you will never work a day in your life”. Whilst this is quite poetic and uplifting, that unfortunately doesn’t always apply for those wishing to break in to the football industry, more specifically, the scouting industry.

Over the years I have worked with many talented scouts, often very young, always very enthusiastic. Some have spent three years at university, some have played to a decent level in their youth, some, like myself, are just obsessed with football and have always wanted to be involved in some capacity. Without a doubt, the ultimate goal for many of these scouts is to work full-time within the hustle and bustle environment of a professional football club, but they know there is a long and frustrating road ahead.

There is an ugly pattern and attitude within the scouting industry, particularly in the Football League in England, where clubs are praying on enthusiasm and getting a great deal of hard work and effort for next-to-nothing. Budding scouts may initially be ok with this – it’s experience, networking and getting their names out there, but the entitlement of clubs under the guise of “We have no budget!” surely needs to be questioned.

In my own experience, I have felt the rough end and poor attitude of working for a club. I had a club’s chief scout approach me a couple of seasons back, asking for opposition reports on an ‘as-and-when’ basis. Great! It’s what we do at The Scouting Network, and I was happy to cover the first game. They liked the report and many more followed. Invoice time came, slight delay. Fine. More games followed, again happy to do so. Second invoice time came. More games. Reminder of the two previous invoices was sent. I was then told by the chief scout to speak to their finance team and was given details. I spoke to an assistant, where I was told the invoice would be paid end of the week. More games. No payment. Spoke to chief scout, where he said, “It’s not my problem – you need to speak to the finance team!” Spoke to the finance team, still the assistant and not the actual person in charge..… it took 4 months for a first payment, then a further 3 months for the rest. Almost every day I was on the phone trying to speak to the head of the finance department who was either ‘on holiday’ or ‘out of office’. No wonder it took so long to get a single penny.

The chief scout I dealt with washed his hands with the whole affair, with an attitude that suggested “Well, why should we pay you!??”. Well, because, we have spent a large amount of money, time and effort to get YOUR requested games covered, we are a small company that cannot afford to not be paid. We have dedicated scouts travelling to cover these games. They need and deserve paying.

I actually highlighted such reasons in a strongly worded e-mail to him. The sheer fact I had to highlight these basic fundamentals of how business works still staggers me to this day.

By this time the season had ended, but sure enough come the first week of the next season I get an e-mail from the very same chief scout asking for me to cover games. “Yes, but we would need to set up a direct debit to ensure we are paid monthly and without issue”. “We can’t do that – the club won’t sign off on that”. Needless to say, I turned down the work.

I am not talking about ALL clubs. I have had the pleasure of working with many over the years and they have been nothing but professional and always appreciated the work we did and, shockingly, paid their invoices on time!

It’s an all too familiar and distasteful fabric within the game that clubs are taking full advantage of young, talented scouts. I have had many a phone call with scouts who are close to tears because they feel taken advantage of, that they have spent their entire weekends watching games and compiling detailed reports, going more than the extra mile and spending their own money for the pleasure.

Certain clubs are determined to gather the information no matter who they tread on, whether it be on opposition or potential signings, they need scouts yet don’t seem to appreciate them, in fact, they seemingly prefer to completely disrespect them in quite a vile manner. They just want something for free and feel that they are doing scouts a favour by handing them an opportunity. This is a fob-off approach and it’s time it changed.

Budget. It’s one of the most potent words in lower level football. Understandably so, but some of the clubs I have done work for have the lowest budget in the league, yet they appreciate the value of scouting work, appreciate the value of the scout undertaking the work and therefore will pay what it costs.

A club signs a player for fee, the new player agrees terms of wages and length of contract. Protocol. Next to the player is an agent who has done very little but will receive 10% of this transaction which the club will pay. Protocol. The club may be lucky down the road, receiving a sell-on fee of which the agent will also receive 10%. Protocol. The scout who spent a great deal of his time and money tracking, unearthing such players, missing time from the family, writing detailed reports may get paid 40p per mile. Protocol. 

The Thrill…..

So, following on from my little comeback post yesterday…..

I now have some fire in my belly and would like to get things moving forward. I have a project idea which is leaning more towards ‘talent scouting’. It’s not an ‘idea’ as such, as I know it is being done in other places, but I’d personally like to add another string to my bow in regards to scouting and this is where it starts. 

Identifying talent, established or not, must be a great thrill. I think of those famous signings by clubs, usually with some element of risk involved but paying dividends in one way or another. Also, the blooding in of young guns which instantly ignites memories of the ‘Class of ’92’. The pride and unity involved in finding these young potentials, to seeing them form the backbone of a consistently successful team having played alongside each other from their early teens.

These examples, although examples of when scouting works well, is something that keeps me interested in the different techniques and methods used from club-to-club. The importance of establishing a winning formula, a network, a mantra that continues to produce results, that are cost effective and provide the opportunities for local talents.

I hope this reaches a good number of those working within the game. I am looking for feedback, ideas, stories and to find new connections and maintain the ones I have already made. Feel free to comment, like, share….

A New Direction…..

It’s time to give my blog the kiss of life….

Initially I had set it up to share my experiences of scouting around, it was fun but carried little purpose. Since then much has happened. So much so that I have had very little time to blog about anything.

I’d like this blog to serve a purpose and to gather feedback from scouts, coaches, players, fans, anyone in the football family to add their thoughts.

I have recently joined LinkedIn which I have so far found very useful with meeting potential new connections. Already I have had many discussions on there which is steadily broadening my views on the scouting work.


A quick catch up…

I have been scouting for four years now with The Scouting Network, where my main duties are to compile detailed match assessments for up-and-coming opponents.
I was given the role of Scouting Coordinator for a nine month period, during which time I was in charge of a team of nationally based scouts, ensuring matches were covered across the country and quality assessments were produced and delivered before strict deadlines to the clientele.
I’m 32 now and always looking for a new challenge. I have been studying scouting techniques more in relation to Talent Scouting – something I have always felt passionate about. I have started this blog to get myself out there a little more and to hopefully share stories and ideas in regards to the future of scouting.

Dag & Red vs York City: 10/08/13

So after last weeks visit to the majestic Madejski Stadium, this week I was on my way to Dagenham & Redbridge to visit the brilliantly named ‘London Borough of Barking & Dagenham Stadium‘.

Catchy name aside, these are the types of places I always enjoy visiting. It’s small, honest, grassroots and it pleases me that such clubs are plying their trade in the Football League. Of course Dag & Red are the result of a merger from way back in 1992, Dagenham FC & Redbridge Forest joining forces due to dwindling support from both sides. This amalgamation has seen the club break free of the Non-League shackles and hold a steady place in League Football for the last six seasons, with one of those seasons in the third tier,  although attendances are still low in comparison to most clubs in League Two, having to compete with the likes of West Ham United and Leyton Orient in that part of East London.  

The game itself proved to be a close encounter, with Dag & Red making a lot of the earlier chances, with Medy Elito in particular displaying some great pace through the midfield where he carried the ball effectively and displayed good balance and agility in tight areas, getting out wide where he was a genuine creative threat throughout. Brian Woodall and Rhys Murphy were also impressive in attack, both liking up effectively to create the opening goal of the game when Murphy latched on to Woodall’s perfectly weighted through-ball to calmly round Ingham in goal, tapping home left footed in to the empty net.

York had their chances, with the experienced Richard Cresswell in attack, but they lacked any real end product to their neat build ups, with some excellent last ditch defending from The Daggers to keep out shots at goal.  The game was wrapped up 13 minutes from time when Woodall displayed  a great first touch when bringing down a long diagonal ball aimed in towards him, wrong footing the defender to poke a right footed effort in off the far post.

Dag & Red were certainly the more clinical of the two sides, with York fashioning some decent half chances in the latter stages but once again a combination of brave defending and poor finishing resulted in a 2-0 win for the home side.

Abu Ogogo was fantastic for The Daggers where he plays an important role in front of the back four, closing down quickly where he did a great job of breaking up York’s attacking momentum, whilst Oluwafemi Ilesanmi excelled at right back where he was strong and athletic throughout, pushing on energetically to help support his flank when his team attacked.

They certainly have a plethora of young talent within the squad and have found good balance throughout the side, whilst they have experience at the back and raw talent in attack it’s hard predict where they’d finish come the end of the season, but with new signings such as Rhys Murphy who now has 2 goals in 2 starts, I will tip them for mid-table security. As for York, they might struggle unless they start converting the chances their good build up play deserves.