The landscape in which the Blues recruit players from academy to senior level has changed dramatically in the last five years in keeping with the globalization which encapsulates modern football. This article will look at the key factors which have developed our scouting network in recent times and look to the future pools of players which the Blues could be looking to recruit from….
When David Moyes took over he inherited an ageing squad from previous incumbent Walter Smith. Scouting strategy at youth level was mostly local based whilst senior wise the average squad age was amongst the highest in the division with veterans like Gazza and Ginola coasting towards retirement on inflated wages. What now prevails is one of the biggest scouting networks in world football in a local, national and international context.
“In the past we have mainly looked at home for players, We have looked in the lower leagues and brought in players like Joleon Lescott, Andrew Johnson and Tim Cahill, and we will continue to do that. But now we have to spread our wings to make sure that we get the best players in. There will be extensions to the scouting department that can hopefully help us in that way.When I came here more than five years ago there was a plan to lower the age of the squad, make sure Everton weren’t relegation fodder and to try to make Europe”
David Moyes, Everton Manager, 2007
The Blues have a strong network of 200 scouts examining talent domestically and abroad. The current academy is still stocked predominantly from local players sourced by Merseyside based scouts. The local net spreads 1.5 hours from the clubs Finch Farm base so covers areas such asManchesterwhere Hallam Hope was sourced. Whereas in years gone by the Blues academy and reserve squads would be made up exclusively of local lads, 48% of the squad is now recruited from outside Merseyside.
The below chart shows the location the Blues have recruited the players currently making up the non senior squads (i.e. academy and reserve)
Overseas, the Blues have shown in the past few years with youth recruitment fromGermany,SwedenandGreecethat they are widening their net in terms of youth recruitment. Our connections inPortugalare enhanced by our former player and then scout Nuno Valente (now working at Sporting Lisbon) who recommended Joao Silva and more recently Eric Dier to the Blues.
Gone are the days of signing a player like for instance Duncan Ferguson (2nd time round) for a fairly hefty fee representing minimal chance of sell on value. The club in general seems to have a recruitment policy to buy in players who can be the future stars of tomorrow. Although signings such as Ruddy and Jutkiewicz failed, both were moved on for a profit. Magaye/Velois (combined £1m) were recruited on comparatively low wages to English players but both would represent a strong chance of high sell on value given their quality and age. The Blues aren’t the only club adopting this strategy. Man United’s purchase of Berbatov was their last such ‘marquee?!’ signing of a player for £30m aged 25+ representing zero sell on value.
“Everton are interested in younger players with a resale value and who have the potential to be moulded, improved and developed in a way older players can’t be. We focus on a narrow band, based on age, quality and price”
James Smith, Everton’s Head of Technical Scouting
The Blues have shown through their partnership with Sega and their Football Manager product, as with the Prozone deal, that they are innovative in their methods of sourcing new talent. As a lifelong Football Manager addict as many of you probably are too, you will be aware that the database of players is immense as is the level of detail with regards to specific player attributes.
The use of Prozone for researching future opposition is well known, but less well known is its recruitment module of which the Blues were one of the pathfinder clubs to deploy. It works through clubs selecting the skills and attributes they want in a player, e.g. for a goal scorer you would be looking at composure, acceleration and finishing. The database then assesses the scouted players measuring him on the criteria the club has selected.
Moyes used Prozone analysis to compliment the feedback from his scouts during the purchase of Tim Cahill back in 2004. Now Prozone has developed its product to add a module dedicated to recruitment enabling the club’s scouts and management team to use objective performance data to profile and benchmark potential transfer targets against existing players across all levels of the club.
“The depth and objectivity of the player data offered by Prozone Recruiter sits perfectly with Everton’s ethos. We believe in using the very best performance and player analysis tools to enhance every aspect of team, player and club development. Our close working relationship with Prozone allows us to do just that.”
John Murtough, Everton’s Head of Performance
Leading players in the world of scouting often pontificate about the ‘next’ countries which will offer the higher quality of player at an economical price. For example, look at the mass recruitment of Norwegian players to the English League in the 1990’s – the Scandinavian’s costed relatively little and had an ‘English’ mentality: contrast this with Brazilians who at the time were regarded as over priced and as far removed from the English mentality as could be.
In a recent column for Calcio Italia, former Bayer Leverkusen scout and respected journalist Tor-Kristian Karlsen (who scouted players such as the Brazilian skipper Lucio) talked about Slovenian players currently being amongst the most fertile for would be suitors, specifically for Serie A clubs in terms of affordable quality.
“Slovenia has produced brilliant talents for a long time. However, the past few years they have been particularly prolific. Maybe clubs are exaggerating a bit now after the success of the Palermo pair. There’s a lot of ‘trend scouting’ in football, now Slovenia are in fashion”
Karlsen, Calcio Italia Magazine, Feb 2011
With the Blues limited financial clout it will be interesting to see if this is an area we look to further spread our net .
Socio Economic factors also dictate where the likely stars of tomorrow will be found. In the excellent ‘Why England lose” book, Szymanski and Kuper discuss how, with the game becoming more global and knowledge exported from continent to continent (such as Holland to Korea with Hiddink) that the future landscape will see countries such as Japan, USA & China as hotbeds for developing talent. TheUSAis the obvious example here in terms of money invested at youth level with excellent facilities producing good players at fairly low prices. Moyes has shown in the pats with the signings of McBride, Peterlin, Arnoux & Donovan that he has a network in place to tap into youth and senior players stateside.
It will be interesting to see the incomings and outgoings at L4 this summer, but I would think that some of the above quotes from figures within the club give a decent insight into the kind of player we will be looking to recruit.