Masters student Dale Hargan has been developing his skills with League One side Coventry City over the past year as a Video Scout. We spoke with Dale, who graduates this summer after studying MSc Football Coaching & Analysis at UCFB Etihad Campus, about his role and the evolution of scouting in the modern game…

Tell us about your role as Video Scout at Coventry City. What’s it like working on analysis at such a big club? Any highlights?

The role as a scout/video scout was something I hadn’t really considered at the start of my time on the MSc course. I began the course with no real goal as to which direction I wanted to take my career, until a guest speaker session with Chris Badlan, Coventry City Head of Recruitment (pictured above), which opened my eyes to this pathway and actually presented us with an opportunity to become an intern for the upcoming three months. I was one of the selected students in securing the placement which continued for the rest of the academic year.

The role developed over time with more responsibility being given in terms of conducting both video analysis and statistical analysis on various leagues and players. The role consisted of liaising with the clubs recruitment analyst to be allocated three video games a week which were to be watched and then reported on in a timely manner.

The opportunity to visit the training ground and be part of a scouts meeting was an eye opener to the industry with confidential details being shared amongst the scouts regarding transfer targets and the development of the recruitment department and the direction the club were going.

A highlight for me was the responsibility I had in regards to producing statistical analysis and also data visuals on targets for the club, and even more so seeing one of the players signed recently!

What skills have you been able to take into the role that you learnt during your time at UCFB?

During my time at UCFB we have studied various modules which have developed the skills required to be an effective scout. The biggest improvement or change I have seen is my passion for statistics and data to be used. We had a module regarding match analysis where statistics could be used to justify an observation, and this sparked my interest into how it can be used in a positive light and in recruitment. CCFC are a club which in League One have limited resources for recruitment in comparison to the Premier League teams, and therefore have to be a lot more frugal with how they commit to expenditure to watch a player. The statistics and data module has allowed me to enhance my statistical analysis skills which has allowed me to apply this to data sets at the club, and then this can be used to either identify players who may be of an interest to the club or alternatively rule out a player due to their inefficiencies, without having to commit to expenditure of watching the player.

With work being conducted on European leagues, the cost to go and watch a player abroad is one that the club have to be sure on therefore statistical analysis and provisional video analysis is conducted to ensure the club are making a smart economical decision before committing to this.

Also within the coaching modules we looked at game understanding and what we would like each player to do at times and this enhanced my game understanding as to why a player is doing something and whether there is a better action that could have been taken. It is important for a scout to have good game understanding because you will be given an opinion on a players actions and performances, so understanding why they have done something is key.

Finally, Time management has been crucial and a life lesson I will take forward. Juggling a full-time job, a placement with CCFC and also studying for my Masters has been an act at times, but throughout it has forced me to manage my time well to ensure deadlines are met whilst still producing good quality work.

Networking and building contacts is so important when you’re building a career in the football and sports industry. How do you go about building an effective network?

Building a network is imperative as you say in the sports industry and even more so in recruitment. You will often find a pattern of players moving from one club to another and that tends to be because a network and relationship has been built and trust is formed. I think a big way of building your network is to be confident, but approachable. I think this can be done both in person but on social media also, especially LinkedIn and Twitter. Twitter is ever expanding with budding analysts displaying their work and just interacting with these people could lead to something in future as you never know where they will end up. Recently I contacted a Football League club Head of Recruitment regarding the industry just for a chat and he kindly offered to meet up which I will be looking to do as soon as possible!

The guest speakers that have been provided by UCFB have actually led to my placement but also as a contact now moving forward. What is an understated networking opportunity at UCFB is that your peers will form part of your network. Just a quick thought of the people in my cohort and there are people working in three different clubs at recruitment level, coaching students in two different professional clubs and that’s just a small percentage, you never know where your colleagues could end up!

As an MSc Football Coaching & Analysis graduate, how has scouting in the game evolved in recent years?

As we can see in all elements of life technology is changing how we work, but in scouting it is important to try and stay ahead of the game and give yourself that competitive edge and do something a little different to make you stand out from the crowd and maybe put yourselves ahead of your competitors. Recently I read a book called “The Football Code” by James Tippett which is all about predicting the game and how statistics can be used within recruitment in turn to sign find undervalued players. This is a competitive edge that has seen Brentford competing way above their means if you compare their wage bill against league position. It has also led to them having a staggering amount of profit in regards to their net spend which allows the team to consistently compete in the transfer market.

More and more software is becoming available now with Wyscout, ISF Scout 7, InStat  and OPTA where you can access footage of almost any professional game at the click of a button as well as detailed stats for the players including GPS data such as positioning, tracking and other physical outputs. These can all feed into a recruitment decision should a club have access to them as they aren’t cheap.

It is noted that within the industry more and more recruitment analysts are being employed to look at other elements such as data and a players history rather than a traditional scout who watches a game and then speaks to contacts to find out what they can. This highlights how important it can be to be capable of using various software in such a competitive field.

And as a former Great Britain Baseball under-19 player, what are your thoughts on the MLB London series being held in the capital this summer?

In all honesty it’s a huge shock for me! Getting into the game at just four years old I thought it would be something that never happened with it being such a minority sport. Obviously basketball and the NFL have successfully come over to the UK in recent years, but the interest in Baseball just didn’t seem to be there, or so I thought! I think it’s an extremely exciting opportunity for baseball in the UK to develop and grow and I would urge anyone who is slightly interested in the sport to give it a go, whether it is baseball or softball there are so many clubs across the UK you wouldn’t believe it, with a whole host of teams in and around Manchester and London.

BSUK (Baseball Softball UK), BBF (British Baseball Federation) and the BBL (British Baseball League) are all gearing up for the upcoming series with all sorts of competitions, activities and opportunities for the casual fan or even someone who is intrigues for the first time, to get involved with so make sure you check them out!

What advice would you give to prospective students thinking about studying a Masters degree at UCFB?

Finally, the biggest bit of advice I could give to someone who is considering the Masters degree at UCFB is that if you are willing to put the work in on this course and engage and interact with the opportunities out there I believe it is one of the best platforms to put yourself in the shop window there is. I enrolled on the course without a clear goal and now at the end I know what my goals and dreams are and suddenly I am on that pathway with my foot in the door, so be ready!