Football is a game of opinions, making it extremely hard for those who want to become a professional or semi-professional footballer. From a young age, many people have a passion and desire to play football as a career. The odds to become one are all against you, with a percentage of around 0.01% of all people who want to become one, actually making it there. However, do not let this stop you. Football scouts, all over the world, are always looking for the next big thing.
Train Hard from a Young Age
As a young person, you need to become familiar with football as a whole, the rules, the fundamental basics such as passing, dribbling, shooting and tackling. The best way to improve in these simple areas is to join a Sunday League team aka County league team. This is a football system split up into different age groups varying from the ages of 6 or 7 all the way to adulthood. Each age group is split into different league’s ranging from the A league (where the most skilful players are) and down to F or G (the lower skilled players) depending on the number of teams in the county.
This is where the majority of football players now started as it provides great building blocks to a successful life in football. Here is where football players are scouted from a young age as football scouts from academies often go to watch local games. A football academy is definitely the best route to professional football as it is the only place you can get several training sessions a week, surrounded by a high standard of players and top-level qualified coaches. Being in this kind of environment can really boost your development to the next level.
If you are a 15 or 16+ year old footballer and have never been involved with an academy, it will be extremely tough to make it right to the very top, however, it is still possible. Making sure you are in pristine physical condition is such an important factor if you want to become a professional. If you can get that edge over people as early in your life as possible, then you will always stand out as you will win for 50/50 challenges, get past players easier and win more headers, with many more benefits.
What do football scouts look for?
When football scouts takes an interest in a player in Sunday league, they usually view the player 4 times which they feel gives them a fair package in their game. You have to be aware of your actions if you want to become scouted, on and off the pitch. Football scouts will turn up to matches before kick-off to analyse what you are like in the warmup to observe your behaviours, movement skills, how concentrated you are and any other attributes that affect the effort of your warm up. If you mess about, the football scouts will notice and could be disinterested so its important you are aware of the situation you are in and so you should try to impress wherever and whenever.
Not only is it the warm up they take notice in, but your post-match interactions, for example how you react to losing, do you still go around the pitch and shake the hand of every opposition player or do you walk of in a bad mood.
A scout’s job is to identify player potential by: establishing the standard of the player compared to the current players the team and league you play for. As a player, you need to consider that there are 4 main corners in which a scout is looking for when assessing a player.
This is the ability of a player to find supporting positions that will help teammates. It’s also the understanding of the position/role that the player plays in and the knowledge of how they do so. For example, if the player is a full-back, the scout will look for if they are able to make overlapping runs past the winger and how they are able to track back to help out. They will also look for how a player reacts to a scenario they are in, for example when a team is 1-0 up with 5 minutes left to play, will the full-back continue to push forward erratically or will they take a more intelligent approach and be more cautious.
The technical side massively depends on the age group that the player is in. If the scout is at a under 10’s match, the scout will be more interested in a players short passing, confidence with dribbling, finishing and tackling. Whereas, if it is a senior non-league game, then there will be a more tactical analysis of a player.
Football scouts will also be interested in the psychological side of a young football, as a briefly mentioned earlier. The scout in general will look to see if they try new/ spontaneous things but will also see whether or not they do them in suitable areas of the pitch. They will also look for the players mental awareness. For example, if an attacking midfielder is able to find the pockets and holes between the opposition midfield and defence so they can create their own space. Or they will look at whether a centre-half is aware of the opposition striker.
Football scouts will look, predominantly, at the speed of a player in and out of possession, ability to jump height/ have an aerial prowess over other players and the agility of a player (how quickly/ nimble they are able to turn.)
This is probably the most underestimated trait you can have as a young footballer. They will look for how you give feedback to your teammates, are you being positive towards them and encouraging them or are you being unhelpful and negative? Do you show leadership qualities all over the pitch such as passion for your team and enthusiasm or are you strolling about the pitch with not much care? Are you setting an example, something that you may not think the football scouts are looking at, but they will notice whether or not you collect equipment before or after the game?
Jamie Vardy’s Journey to the Top
Jamie Vardy is the prime example of a player who was stuck in the roots of non-league but to escape to now the top division in the world. In 2010, Vardy was playing in the 9th tier of English football for Stocksbridge Park Steels earing just £30 a week with another job outside football also. In 2011 he moved to Halifax Town who he helped achieve promotion to the conference north, scoring 22 league goals in his debut season for the club. After just one season with Halifax, he moved to Fleetwood Town, a side in the Conference National where he had an outstanding single season with the club scoring 31 goals in 36 games.
He then had his 1st shot at the English Football League as he moved to Championship side Leicester City for around £1,000,000. He rarely got a look in at the team in the first few seasons, but just as it looked as though his career was coming to a standstill, he was given a chance at the start of the 2015/16 premier league season.
Leicester City were one of the favourites to get relegated at the start of the season, but remarkably they won the Premier League, going down as one of the craziest seasons ever. Jamie Vardy managed to score 24 goals in England’s topflight and he also broke Van Nistelrooy’s record for the most amount of consecutive goals in the Premier League. The strangest thing about Vardy’s rise to one of the best finishers in English football was that he only started to be prolific at the age of 28. This gives hope to all players in the football pyramid.
It is important to realise that having just one of these qualities will not cut in. For example, you may top the skilful side of your age with bags of flair and exciting dribbling, but if you don’t track back when you lose the ball and you moan at your teammates when they make a mistake, then you will not be thought of as a high player. Football scouts want you to have the full package as a player, otherwise they will move on from you to someone else. There is always a chance to become a footballer and applying all of these four corners to your game will most definitely give you an edge over everybody else.