In years gone by, talent scouts were a vital component of ensuring a football club’s success. In the days when transfer fees were minimal and salaries relatively small, identifying young, local talent ahead of rivals was necessary to ensure a strong squad as well as a viable business model. In the modern game however, with its’ multi-million-pound transfers and huge salaries, the number of young local players breaking through into the top teams seems to have diminished, raising the question of whether scouts are still valued as being key to a club’s success.
It’s not just scouts whose role appears to have changed dramatically in the modern era however, some football agents appear now to act solely as dealmakers helping the top clubs buy the top players and taking a huge cut of the profits themselves. Whilst these do appear to be worrying developments, there are still many voices within the game trying to draw attention to the necessity of talent scouts in bringing through local players and saving clubs money, as well as agents who believe it is important not only to act as deal brokers, but also to ensure players are fully equipped for the modern game and the challenges of retirement. One such example is Chris Nathaniel of NVA Agency, who in his attempt to uncover and develop hidden talent, has widened his search as far afield as Ghana.
One such example of how home-grown talent can outshine expensive transfers, is the recent emergence of Marcus Rashford at Manchester United. The 18-year-old burst onto the scene with two goals in the Europa League on his debut and has since established himself in the first-team, as well as becoming a regular fixture for the national side. After spending hundreds of millions of pounds on transfers in recent years, few have made anywhere near the impact Rashford has made, who didn’t cost them a penny. Rashford worked his way through the ranks at United after joining the club at the age of 9 from Didsbury-based Fletcher Moss Rangers.
Fletcher Moss have built up quite the reputation after discovering other United stars such as Wes Brown, Danny Welbeck, Ravel Morrison and Tyler Blackett. Whilst the club’s scouts should be lauded for discovering such talent so early, they remain largely unknown. Indeed most of United’s network of 80 scouts in the North West work part-time due to the lack of investment in them and receive little recognition despite the clear value that they bring.