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Setting the Standard ââ?¬â?? Scouting for a Future


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RM poster 'BlueIsTheColour' gives his recommendations on how the club could look to improve via a more refined and wider-ranging scouting network.

 

http://www.gersnetonline.co.uk/newsite/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=748&Itemid=2

 

Part One

 

The Rangers of 2009 is not the club we all once knew.

 

No longer can we attract Europe's best players when they are at the top of their game. In fact, nowadays we would struggle to pay their appearance bonuses, never mind their weekly salaries. The club is suffering the effects of an economic downturn and poor money-management from the Boardroom to the Manager's Office. In correlation with this fact, we are seeing a decline in the quality of performances produced on the pitch. There is no doubt about it; we are in the midst of a decline. Every year we have to sell our top players, qualify for the Champions League and continue to fill Ibrox with 50,000 fans, just so as we break even and don't record a loss year on year.

 

Something has to change. David Murray and Walter Smith have constantly reminded us as fans that the days of big spending are over and that we cannot compete financially with the top European sides that are paying ludicrous amounts of money for players. But why are we making excuses for our predicament? We should be creating a new vision for the club, one which will see us compete in the Champions League, assert dominance in the SPL and become an attractive club again. I have such a vision; it is neither complicated nor costly. It is the creation of a multi-level scouting network which can identify the best young hidden talent from across the globe, find players who are within our price range and who will improve the squad and also give the manager a chance to explore avenues never before open to him.

 

It is the future.

 

At present, our transfer policy is very limited and many would say is failing. Our main source of players is close to home, from either the English Championship or the SPL. Due to the inflated transfer market in England, we are being forced to scrounge for bargains that may or may not improve our first team, or even be good enough to play for us at all. Walter Smith has spent �£30 million on players since returning to the club and only a handful of those signings have made a big impact on the first team. Too much money is being wasted when we can least afford it. The problem is that we have no real process of identifying players. It appears that our scouting system consists of looking to the over-priced English market, snapping-up the best talent in the SPL and attempting to sign any players that have impressed against us in Europe. That's hardly constructive, I'm sure you will agree.

 

The whole system needs to be scrapped and reinvented. The pressure should not be on the manager to identify, scout and sign players whom he thinks can do well at Rangers. He also shouldn't have just one or two men who can go and report on players who catch his eye. I believe that the club should firstly appoint a Director of Football who will oversee the development of youth players, a new scouting system and will answer directly to the manager and Chairman. Following this there should be the process of hiring around ten top scouts, who will each bring a different wealth of knowledge to the club. For example, one or two scouts who have their finger on the pulse of the South American game, another two each for the Asian and African games, and the remaining 4 to report on the European game.

 

This would only be a starting block, over time the network will inevitably expand and the more contacts the scouts can establish the more players that will be brought to the Director of Football's attention. Each scout will be responsible for creating an ever-changing dossier of players in their respective Continents who are great prospects, proven players or under-rated professionals. A list of between 15-20 of their top recommendations should be created, and constantly updated, for every playing position. Any specific talents or frailties should be noted as well as an in-depth description of how each player operates, the price tag and the possible sell-on value. Of course, this will not all happen overnight or be a quick-fix to our current problems. It is a clear and concise plan for the future which will have many benefits for both the club and the supporters.

 

First and foremost it makes the job of manager so much easier. When he identifies a position that needs filled within the team he doesn't have to start his search from scratch, there will already be a vast wealth of information available to him on many players from around the globe. He has a knowledgeable Director of Football to consult with as well as each individual scout who can help find the player(s) who would be most suited to the manager's playing style and structure. This could inevitably reduce the amount of signings who are unable to make the grade in the Rangers first-team.

 

There are also the financial benefits to such a system. It will uncover many talented young players who have yet to appear on the radar of the big European clubs and in doing so, give us a conveyor belt of talent from all over the world. If these players are successful they can then be sold on for much larger fees than the club originally paid without leaving gaping holes in the first team. The club can also save money by buying from poorer leagues than the English Championship, which will undoubtedly see superior players available for a fraction of the price of their over-valued English counterparts.

 

The clubs' image will see a massive benefit, as will merchandise sales if an ambitious but prudent marketing structure is put in place. With the club finding players from all over the world, we can create an image of being truly global and use this to attract merchandise sales from football-mad countries like China, Japan and the USA where there is huge potential for massive revenue in this department. I won't go into too much detail on this point as it will hopefully be covered in more depth within another article.

 

[CONTINUED]

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Part Two

 

But is this all just an idealistic, untested vision which looks good on paper but will fail when put into practice? Anyone familiar with AZ Alkmaar will be tell you the answer is a resounding no. AZ are the perfect example of how such as system has been used to great success. Since buying the club in 1998, Dirk Sheringa has developed a similar system to the one I have proposed and has subsequently taken his club from being relegation strugglers in the Eredivise and turned them into one of Europe's top up-and-coming clubs. They share many similarities to Rangers in that they operate in a country which doesn't have the same financial strength as clubs in England, Spain and Italy. They also have a state-of the art youth facility, much like our very own Murray Park, which has seen many talented young players come through it's doors. Players like Jan Kromkamp, Tim DeCler and Denny Landzaat all came through the ranks of the AZ youth system and have gone on to become regulars in the Dutch National Side.

 

Scheringa made scouting a priority and has appointed managers who share his vision in Louis Van Gaal and firstly Co-Adrianse. Both have made use of the scouts at their disposal by bringing in quality players, young and experienced, from mainly South America who have aided in the clubs' dramatic rise to prominence both at home and in Europe. Under Van Gaal they have finished runners-up in the Eredivise the past two seasons and got to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup whilst playing attractive, free-flowing football which has earned praise from many individuals at the top of the game. They currently sit 9 points clear at the top of the Eredivise this season.

 

This is a system which has worked wonders for the provincial club and due to their increased financial capabilities and ever-increasing fan base they were last year able to complete the building of a new 28,000 seater stadium. This is the route that Rangers Football Club should be attempting to travel, one which proudly sticks two fingers of defiance up to the money leading clubs by saying, “success does not come just by throwing cash around.” Other clubs who have embraced good scouting networks and have benefited hugely from it are Sevilla, Villareal, Shalke and Hoffenheim. All, bar Hoffenheim who are soon to follow suit as they top the Bundesliga, are now established European forces who have spent very little money but have generated huge transfer fees for their young players and earned relative success at the same time.

 

TSG Hoffenheim, whom I have just mentioned, are also a very significant example of where ambition and good scouting can take a team. 3 years ago the club were unknown to even the most ardent observer of German football, playing their trade in the Regionalliga Sud (German 3rd division). But owner Deitmarr Hopp had other ambitions for his club and sought the services of Bundeslige veterans whose combined efforts saw them promoted to the Bundesliga 2 within a single season. To coincide with this, Hopp pulled-off a coup in appointing German manager, Ralf Rangnick who had a glittering career in charge of teams such as Stuttgart, Hannover and Shalke. Rangnick looked to the youth ranks and brought in talented youngsters from both Germany and across the globe to aid his ambition of Bundesliga promotion.

 

Players such as Andreas Beck, Demba Ba, Christoph Janker and Veded Ibisevic were instrumental in guiding the minnows to an astonishing back-to-back promotion into the Bundesliga, an amazingly feat as not one of them are over 25. And as if that wasn't enough of a success story, TSG Hoffenheim currently lead the Bundesliga by one point from second place Bayern Munich. No, don't rub your eyes, you read it correctly. The club continued to their already talented young side and have surprised the entire footballing world this season. And just like AZ Alkmaar, the German side were also proud to open a new 30,000 seater stadium at the beginning of this season to herald their promotion to the Bundesliga.

 

Amazingly, in the three seasons it took TSG Hoffenheim them to reach the German top flight there has only been two players who have been bought and then sold-on within that time. This shows just how effective their scouting system really is, they are buying players who are succeeding and driving the club forward. This is in stark contrast to the current situation at Rangers where players are being bought, failing to make an impact and disappearing from the first team and the club itself. It is fairly evident with that a good scouting system can completely rejuvenate a club if they have people in charge who are willing to adapt to the changing world of football.

 

 

As I have said, this cannot happen without vision and leadership from the Chairman. One thing these clubs all have in common, aside from their rise to success, is a Chairman who has been willing to invest in the future by showing ambition, leadership and motivation. Securing a firm grip on the world's transfer markets is not an easy feat by any means, yet it can be achieved. This is where you must step up to the plate Mr Murray. You must put your search for a buyer on hold; nobody in their right mind is willing to buy into Rangers at this current time. Instead you should be investing in scouting systems like the one I have outlined, this can not only attain the many benefits highlighted but also attract potential suitors with the the club itself being seen as an asset with a vision, a plan and consequently, a future.

 

Rangers cannot continue along this current directionless path. It will only see our great club wither away towards the footballing wilderness. Scouting is a way forward for the club both on the field and financially. It will allow us to stop the glut of average players coming through the famous Ibrox doors, give the manager a much clearer picture of the global game in which to find players suited to his style and contribute to success on the pitch. We can open new markets in which to promote the Rangers brand and with some ambition in this area we will use these markets to generate incomes from merchandise sales. Young players from around the globe will be attracted to the club, as will proven players within our price range. In short, a little vision and leadership can go a long, long way in football. Mr Murray, finding a suitable buyer could take many years, establishing an effective, functioning scouting network will only take a couple.

 

The future must be cemented in the present. Do you still have the heart to drive our great club to success?

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Another excellent bit of writing.

 

Obviously the main consideration is once again how much would it cost to implement such a system? �£1million? �£3million? �£10million? More?

 

Well, I prefer to compare it to the costs of some of the failures we've brought in in recent years. The McCulloch's, Sebo's, Mladenovic's et al call cost a pretty penny and when you combine them, you quickly reach a figure that could have been put towards a more forward-thinking strategy.

 

Of course, the other consideration/cost is that of time. A scouting network with tangible results won't happen overnight. It would develop over a period of time and should be used in conjunction with other club initiatives (such as Youth) to maximise results and minimise costs.

 

As CammyF suggested in a previous article, such a network could be put together in the first instance by utilising former players. Rangers have a rich modern heritage of signing players from all over the world - from Algeria to Ulster; from Albertz to Ginzburg. I doubt any of these former players would knock the club back when asked to contribute.

 

From there further contacts are made, relationships explored and results achieved.

 

More can be done and there really isn't any excuse not to. Fans would buy into such a scheme and the only question is why hasn't it been done before.

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While agreeing with the concept of the scouting system i am afraid the writers research leaves a lot to be desired. Danny Landzaat and Tim le Cler actually came through the Ajax youth system. Lannzaat was in fact a full international before he joined AZ. Dick scheringa in fact owns his own bank and pumps plenty of money into AZ. I think if you go through the AZ team you will in fact find more own youth players playing for rangers than AZ have. AZ offered 15million for Alves who now plays for Middlesbrough.

While i am no expert in Hoffenheim i do know that the owner is also in fact super rich, making millions from the software programme SAP. I will disagree about their youth system gaining their success but they do seem to have a scouting system in place that can pick out players who are at smaller clubs and blend them into a team.

Pity a lack of research spoils the post.

If you want to look at great scouting in Holland then Herenveen and Groningen must top the list.

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Thanks for that Pete.

 

I think the Hoffenheim owner is a billionaire but hasn't put all that much money into the club. Certainly no more than the millions wasted at ours.

 

Can you tell us more about the Dutch clubs you mention? We have a Dutch post-doc at work who is a Groningen fan so I might ask him as well.

 

:)

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Guest BlueIsTheColour
While agreeing with the concept of the scouting system i am afraid the writers research leaves a lot to be desired. Danny Landzaat and Tim le Cler actually came through the Ajax youth system. Lannzaat was in fact a full international before he joined AZ. Dick scheringa in fact owns his own bank and pumps plenty of money into AZ. I think if you go through the AZ team you will in fact find more own youth players playing for rangers than AZ have. AZ offered 15million for Alves who now plays for Middlesbrough.

While i am no expert in Hoffenheim i do know that the owner is also in fact super rich, making millions from the software programme SAP. I will disagree about their youth system gaining their success but they do seem to have a scouting system in place that can pick out players who are at smaller clubs and blend them into a team.

Pity a lack of research spoils the post.

If you want to look at great scouting in Holland then Herenveen and Groningen must top the list.

 

Thanks for your reply mate.

 

Firstly, i take your point with regards to Denny Landzaat, i used that example off the top of my head and didn't think to check up on it. I was sure he had come through the AZ ranks. As for Tim DeCler, he had failed to make any impact at Ajax and his move to AZ rejuvinated his career and won him a Holland call-up.

 

The AZ owner is extremely wealthy, as you say, but he did not pump vast amounts of money into the club. He built the AZ Youth Academy with his own money when he bought the club but most of the money spent on players before has come from the club's income and not his own pocket.

 

This is the same with Hoffenheim. Their Chairman is indeed a Billionaire but seen the flaws in simply throwing money around to gain success and instead went down the more prudent and thoughtful route of buying young players from under the radar of the big German clubs. As i said in the article, their team is very young and their biggest transfer was for Carlos Eduardo who cost them 8 million Euros.

 

Heerenveen and Groningen are good examples of teams who have managed to run at very low costs and have made full use of their youth system. But the reason i ouldn't use any of these clubs as a comparison to Rangers is that neither have seen any real level of success in comparison to AZ and indeed Hoffenheim. But, yes, if you want examples of clubs who manage their finances very well and still compete in the top domestic division then both of these clubs would be suitable. That was not the direction of my article though.

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Thanks for taking the time to reply Blue...

 

Individual players and small parts of the strategy can be debated but generally I think you've shown such a strategy is certainly worthy of exploration and I'd like to hear why the club haven't embarked on such a route before now and/or if they intend to in the future.

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The merits of a proper youth system combined with a proper scouting system which looks specificaklly at young players is indisputable.

 

I fear we missed a huge opportunity when we built MP by not starting to restrict transfer fees on established players and spending a wee bit more on the youth and scouting system.

 

I know hindsight is 20/20 but who would rather we saved 2 mill on McCulloch (or Miller's) transfer fee and piled that money into proper worldwide scouting for younger prospects or, at the very least, getting a scouting network in place.

 

Buying established players costs a lot more, obviously, than bringing in a precocious talent. Also the potential profit on these players is far greater than with those established players (unless you truly have a "find' in the established players ala Cuellar) because the initial fee will be low and if given 1st team games should see their value increase substantially.

 

However, that said, you also need proper coaching, management and appropriate integration into the first team squad. It seems, to me at least, that WS seems to have gotten this right with Fleck - the question is whether he is the exception rather than the norm ?

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Thanks for your reply mate.

 

Firstly, i take your point with regards to Denny Landzaat, i used that example off the top of my head and didn't think to check up on it. I was sure he had come through the AZ ranks. As for Tim DeCler, he had failed to make any impact at Ajax and his move to AZ rejuvinated his career and won him a Holland call-up.

 

The AZ owner is extremely wealthy, as you say, but he did not pump vast amounts of money into the club. He built the AZ Youth Academy with his own money when he bought the club but most of the money spent on players before has come from the club's income and not his own pocket.

 

This is the same with Hoffenheim. Their Chairman is indeed a Billionaire but seen the flaws in simply throwing money around to gain success and instead went down the more prudent and thoughtful route of buying young players from under the radar of the big German clubs. As i said in the article, their team is very young and their biggest transfer was for Carlos Eduardo who cost them 8 million Euros.

 

Heerenveen and Groningen are good examples of teams who have managed to run at very low costs and have made full use of their youth system. But the reason i ouldn't use any of these clubs as a comparison to Rangers is that neither have seen any real level of success in comparison to AZ and indeed Hoffenheim. But, yes, if you want examples of clubs who manage their finances very well and still compete in the top domestic division then both of these clubs would be suitable. That was not the direction of my article though.

 

Sorry it was not my meaning to take anything away from the importance of the original topic. The most important part of the message is of course that a good well run scouting system can and would be a huge benefit to the club.

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