A lot of people wonder about scouts and how all it works, well, I know that I did anyway. Did being the operative word! I was fortunate enough to chat with David Bujara who is a youth scout for a Football League Club and also does some freelancing work further down the pyramid. I dug into all things scouting and tried to find out what the truths were behind it all…
Naturally, to begin with, I wanted to know how David found himself involved in the wonderful world of scouting.
“It was a strange one, I’ve always been interested in football, not as a player but watcher. I Was reading an article in the Metro Newspaper about scouting and the PFSA course. I kept hold of the copy and I quite liked the sound of it; it all went from there, as I the did research and tried to get qualifications.”
Right ok, and what did you do from there on in?
“First, our lower leagues in Newcastle are strong, I went onto the league websites and emailed every single club in the top two (non-league) divisions. Said I was doing this scouting course in Feb of last year (2017), will anyone give me a chance for physical experience. A club came back and said we can’t offer you money but we will give you the chance to speak to our manager etc. That was how I got my foot in the door.”
Interesting and are you still working within the non-league side of it are just working for the Football League club?
“I work for the Football League club for the academy. U23’s and my main focus is U18 and U13’s, on top of that I do freelance, first team opposition reports. Done a few for Conference North sides. Player reports etc. Really about getting your name out there initially and about setting up contacts.”
It’s About Getting Your Name Out There
So as like most things, it is not what you know, it’s who you know. Do you get paid for the freelancing side of it?
“It goes from club to club, some clubs pay the expenses and others pay 30-40 quid for reports. Which is just cash in your back pocket. It’s always about getting more practice and getting your name out there. You could be the best scout at a low level but unless your name is out there you will never progress up the leagues.”
Ok, and what exactly is within the opposition report?
That differs from club to club as well. Recently did one and the club had certain things they wanted me to answer. But generally, you’ll find formation, player roles within that formation, eg. If they are playing a 4-4-2, the lad that is right side mid is a winger, lad on the left-hand side of midfield, inverted winger/inside forward. Central midfielder could be a playmaker or ball retriever.”
Makes sense, a lot goes into it. What are your goals moving forward with it all?
“At the moment, I’ve got a good balance with family life, my job with Newcastle uni and then the scouting. I’d love in the future, to make it a full time permanent job. It would be a dream for most to be paid to watch football. But I think from most of the people I’ve spoken to, it is the time away from family, you miss so much family time especially kids.”
“In the next 5 or 6 years, I’d be fine with part-time progressing at the club I work for and getting a chance with the first team. You get to see raw talent at academy level and whether they’ll make it as a pro because of their mentality and their current situation but I’d be quite happy if anything below League One were looking for a (full-time) scout in the north, it would be perfect for myself.”
Ah, the dream we all have. Being able to work within football full-time. That got me thinking, what was David’s dream job and was he a Newcastle fan?
“No, I’m closer to Middlesbrough, so I’m a sad ‘boro fan as there aren’t many about.”
So I’m guessing the dream would be if you were paid to watch ‘boro?
“Yeah ‘boro would be a dream as that’s my team and knowing you are helping your team would be amazing. RB Salzburg/Leipzig, and their idea of young talent, aiming away from buying the finished article. That sort of club would be perfect as well.”
Imagine Finding Coutinho
I had to partly bite my tongue at this point as I don’t have a lot of time for Red Bull clubs, but the show must go on and all that jazz so instead of asking him about Red Bull’s ethics etc, I asked: You would get a kick out of that as well, you could almost brag?
“Yeah obviously, imagine you being the scout to find Coutinho at Inter and him now moving to Barca for 140 million. Just like Mane going from big fee to big fee. It would be brilliant to find this hidden gem and you’d get a lot of professional pride, rather than going through a sticker album of finished players.”
Be ace that, what did you do today? Found Coutinho. What do you look for in a footballer?
“Obviously you have to have the talent but I prefer to look at mentality as well, so I watched a few quality players the other week and they won 9-5 and they were brilliant and so I watched them the week after and they got hammered. Their attitudes after that match was disgraceful, heads were dropping arguing with everyone. Their effort had dropped and if they can’t fight through a loss at grassroots so how would they be in their academy level.”
Were they like that just because they were losing?
“No, once they conceded the first their effort and heads went straight down, they were arguing with their teammates saying you should be doing that. They were just walking around and had given up. If you haven’t got the drive and determination at that level than they won’t be good at higher levels. Although that isn’t always down to just the player, they could need a word in the ear, like an agent drumming it into them. It might work but it might not work permanently.”
A Minimum Of Five Games
Goes to show, never give up when you’re playing, you never know who might be watching. How many times would you watch someone before you recommend them?
“Every time you watch them you have to give them a rating and then you send it to our coordinator and then he moves things on from there. 1st game – played well etc but would need to see them against a stronger side, 2nd game – explain then. You would want to watch them in a minimum of 5 games. Try and see them against both bad and good opposition, see if they motivate the team or just have their head down.”
How many players would you say you have brought into the Football League club?
“Currently have four or five to send down. I’ve recommended a few myself but I have never heard back from the club to see if they have been taken any further.”
60 Recommendations Each Weekend
Why do you think that’s not happened yet, because coordinator hasn’t told you or because the club have too much on?
“They’ll know the standard of certain leagues at head office and so I could be sending them a recommendation saying this guys fantastic sign him but they may have a similar player from London and they know that the standard of the league is better in London than Newcastle. So the rating may be the same but it isn’t considered to be because of the standard of the league. Could be on a list for a queue basically because they must get 50 or 60 recommendations each weekend.”
That’s a hell of a lot of players?
“Yeah, we have a massive network and we have like 30 scouts watching two games a week and we are all just hoping our reports make our players stand out the most.”
Bloody hell. Imagine being told you’re getting recommended to a club but they’ve got too many and it doesn’t get taken any further, what a wounder. In terms of non league, have you recommended any lads to those clubs?
“Yes, so I’ve had a couple of lads going to the club I used to work for. One didn’t work out, he had the talent but didn’t have the correct attitude and the other, the other week, I had a phone call to look at a lad and I recommended him and he’s going through now. He hasn’t reached the right level just yet and the manager of the team said he’s not ready, but they are passing him on to a club the league below to get him some game time in an adults league and with the physicality with the hopes of playing with the team next year.”
Some success stories may well be en route, then! How long have you been doing this now?
“A season and a half. I started last season in the Northern League and then moved on to the Football League club.”
Now, something I had to ask because I get messages myself on LinkedIn etc and I’m just writing, so how many messages do you get on a daily basis from agents and players etc?
“It used to be a lot more. You would have like 6 people trying to connect and I used to accept as you never know and they message you about this that and the other but you would try and explain the situation to them. For example, I had a Dutch guy with a few players but I explained to him that it’s academy level and UK only and we were being polite etc. Then he messages me back saying I have these 15 year olds and I had to message back saying I don’t deal outside the UK. But you’ll be able to find the name (of the relevant coach) out on LinkedIn. Then he sent a nasty message back which is a problem. You get them from all over the place especially Africa or Middle East. Its got to be realistic. I never tell anyone no but I give them advice but some don’t like that, as they expect you to do it all.”
There Can Be Some Success Stories
“A lad from Egypt messaged us as he’s at Liverpool uni now, we looked him up and he was playing at a decent level like top division youth football in Egypt, we contacted the club and it all checked out. Then asked for advice as he wanted to a trial but I couldn’t give him one so with me knowing about the student visa etc I helped him out through that. So now it’s been great, he’s gonna be playing for a non league club in Liverpool. You do get some idiots messaging you but there can be some success stories as well.”
We’d covered pretty much all the bases by now, so, I asked: What advice have you got for people getting in the scouting industry?
“Be realistic, go out to matches and talk to people on LinkedIn etc. It’s very hard to get into in terms of being a top scout. It’s also very hard to get a full time job out of it so if you are going into it thinking that’s what will happen in two years time then think again. A few people have not been prepared for it when I have told them. The chances are limited and there’s so many scouts out there wanting to be paid to watch football. Starting up, you just need to be willing to put the hard graft into it, work for nothing, travelling for a lot and I wasn’t getting petrol, I was getting into the games for free but you may not be lucky enough for that. You just have to be willing to put the work in, get your name out there in the mouths of connections and there are people willing to do that but there also isn’t. People think the clubs will just pay for everything but they don’t.”
Scouting isn’t for the faint hearted then by the sounds of it. David carried on…
“Talk to a lot of people, get pieces of advice and take it all in, never disregard any advice. As there are people who have been doing this for years so they know what they are on about. I know personally when I’ve gave advice previously some people get arsey with you but that isn’t how I want to be saying it to you, I’m just trying to help you out. Just trying to make sure you’re not surprised.”
Be Prepared To Get Stuck In
I finished off by asking how he did all the reports and what have you, surely it can’t just be pen and paper?
“Yeah I was lucky to get a template on the course from a lad but it’s just about adapting to your style. Some clubs use PowerPoint as if you are doing a set piece report so you can create the diagrams better. There are loads of templates and diagrams out there but the high quality ones you have to pay for. I used to draw everything by hand and then scan them, then I practiced using the templates and copy and pasting the diagrams for set pieces, any tactics from long throws and goalkeeper distribution, you find a way to do everything.”
Right, so if you want to get involved in scouting, make sure you know how to use Microsoft Office, be prepared to work for free for a period of time and get nothing back for the majority of work you do. In a weird sort of way, it’s made me want to get involved in scouting a bit more because it seems like a tough nut to crack. I want to say thanks to David for taking the time to talk to me and also to Stephen Beavon for helping me transcribe the interview. He’s not bad for a Bluenose, you know?
Until the next time.