AFC Bournemouth’s Head of 1st Team Domestic Scouting, ANDY HOWE, journey with the PFSA began with a rainy weekend in Bournemouth before stepping up from being a student to taking on the role of tutor in sunny Orlando.
It all started with an email the AFC Bournemouth scout received from the club’s Head of Academy recruitment in August 2018 about the two-day PFSA Level Two scouting course they were hosting.
As an advocate of the growth mindset mantra that is now deeply ingrained in all elite performance environments, Andy viewed the session as an ideal way to expand his knowledge and deepen his thinking in his role as a scout.
Andy said: “I first got wind of the course when the Academy sent an email round to all the staff saying if anyone wanted to attend, and I just jumped at the chance really.
“I thought, in this modern age of football, where everyone is looking to enhance their knowledge and improve, ‘I’ll spend two days on the course and see what I can pick up and see what I can learn’.
“I just went with an open mind to see what I could learn and see if there was anything I could take back into our recruitment process to try and enhance the department.”
So over a rain hit weekend on the Dorset coast, Andy spent two blissful days locked away in a conference room at Dean Court talking football.
PFSA lead tutor Dean Whitehouse took the course with Andy sat beside colleagues from Bournemouth Academy and First-Team, representatives from other clubs, as well as some beginners looking to break into the world of football scouting.
Andy revealed: “The first day we looked at Talent ID, looking at individual players then on the second day we looked at the Opposition Analysis side of scouting.
“It was really insightful. It was great to see people from our first-team environment and the Academy set-up but you also had a guy from Wolverhampton and a mix of people from grass roots so there was a healthy discussion amongst the group with people of different experiences and backgrounds sharing ideas.
“The tutor, Dean, came from a Manchester United Academy background and he led the course really well over the two days.
“He was very good at expressing the things he had learned at United but also encouraged the discussion amongst the group to share their ideas and I think that definitely helped within the course because it wasn’t just him saying this is how you need to do things.
“It is a really great way of learning having this interaction and group discussions. It highlighted the fact there is no one set way when it comes to scouting. It’s all dependent on your football club and the audience you work too.”
This was really brought home when the group were asked to assess a Premier League midfielder from video clips of him in action.
The group were tasked with listing their own individual observations before gathering in pairs to discuss what were the key attributes they focused on when assessing the player, then as a group.
Andy added: “The first things I looked at were what formation was he playing in and his role within it but then more on the player in how he was finding space and his awareness when receiving the ball and the technical quality and fluidity.
“In the clips his side had a lot of the ball so I was picking up more on things he was doing in possession. So things like how he took the ball, how he opened up his hips and his awareness of his surroundings and what he did with the ball.
“The room was really quiet and focused during this part but then when we came together into groups there was a real buzz of people opening up and sharing their thoughts.
“In the morning there were a few lads who were a little quiet but it was great how the group bonded and allowed everyone to find their voice and everyone had something to contribute.
“If I remember rightly there were a few people who had focused on the player’s physical attributes and aggression, so it just highlighted how people see different things in players and how important they are, will depend on the needs of their club.
“As the task progressed, it also really opened the eyes of everyone in the room about how different reports can look. There is no set template in reports. You make the report to suit your football club and your manager.
“Some football clubs or managers might like a dossier or other clubs may want it short and brief and to the point, and the grassroots people followed a lot of the four corner models designed at the FA.”
The two days made quite an impact on Andy not just in terms of his own personal development but also how the work of the PFSA helps to elevate the role of scouts in England and as he was soon to find out, across the world.
He said: “I saw the PFSA doing a great job amongst the scouting world for people who are very eager to learn more about the football scouting industry so I felt I could do more to help them because there are a lot of people who want to get involved in the scouting side of the game and I thought it would be great to be a part of that.”
So having been sat behind the desk for two days, Andy leapt at the chance to become part of the PFSA’s team of tutors, making his debut on an away trip to Florida, where he helped to deliver a course for staff at MLS side Orlando City.
“I was lucky to be working alongside Kevin Braybrook who has his experience with Southampton and being a tutor at UCFB and Jason Blake, with Bournemouth and Burnley.
“Those guys really ran the show, and I was able to talk about experiences of being a football scout and the journey from going from League One up to the Premier League which was relevant for Orlando as they only joined the MLS in the last few years.
“The big thing for me was that Orlando got every department involved. They had the Academy and Community scouts there, they had the vice-president and first-team manager James O’Connor came along. They had the Director of Football Ricardo Moreira there and they had the chief scout, which I think was really great because it showed the whole Orlando City franchise bought into the course and that as a club they are working together as a collective following a clear identity and philosophy which is key in recruitment.”
What helped Andy settle into his role as a tutor was the fact he, Jason, Kevin and Adam Hobson PFSA Director went to Orlando v LAFC two nights before delivering the course to learn more about Orlando and the MLS.
“I know a lot about the MLS but it helped myself, Jason and Kevin to see them play as it gave us an idea of their playing philosophy, the types of players they have and what players they could be possibly looking for short and long term.
“From my personal perspective it was good to see a live game and assess the intensity of the speed of the game and players at this level, their physique, the things that can be difficult to assess when watching on video.
“During the course we did the exercise with the Premier League midfield player which was good to witness from a withdrawn role and the level of detail they picked up on from the clips.
“Then on the second day we did the opposition analysis where we used a Bournemouth game from when we beat Chelsea 4-0.
“I didn’t know the guys had chosen this game until they told me the night before, we’d done a World Cup match when I did this part of the course as a student.
“I was really excited about that when they told me, for obvious reasons. It was also good for me because it was Bournemouth and I was at the game.
“The reaction of the Orlando guys was great. They were really happy because it was a Premier League game and a couple of them had actually watched that game live.
“Using that game added to the dynamic with the guys, as they could ask more specific questions about what we did for that game, so it was great to give them that level of insight.
“The manager James O’Connor was very interested, asking questions during the video clip, at the end of the clip and at the end of the course, which was great.”
Taking on the role of a tutor was a big step out of the comfort zone for Andy but one he is so glad he took and has continued with as it has enhanced his skill set beyond just identifying talent.
He added: “It is a great opportunity for anyone to do. From my side it was daunting initially standing at the front of the classroom but I have done it a few more times now and feel a lot more confident in doing it.
“It enhances, not only your knowledge and open mindedness to take on new ideas and to learn and to speak with other people but it also helps you as a person to be more confident when you are doing presentations and so on.
“There are not really any negatives to being involved in events like this, either as a learner or a tutor, these experiences can only help to expand your knowledge and skills.”