Pitching Your Talent

01.09.2018 Pitch

Talent ID in a great deal of sports tends to focus on the various elements of performance, but football is seemingly different. With the World Cup over and player selection of paramount importance for teams starting the new season a seemingly hot topic of debate for armchair managers all over the country, is the manager’s choices of team selection of which are placed under constant scrutiny.

Many of us have been there, down the park or local pitch on a Sunday having the game of your life, sticking 8 goals past The Dog and Duck which gives rise to fantasies about being next world star, who slipped through the system at youth level and was spotted ‘late’ before becoming a household name.Unfortunately, regardless of how ‘well’ you think you are playing, the opposition player with the most pedigree is a beer guzzling ex-Watford FC academy drop-out who had a brief but short-lived career in the under 10’s for a season.

The main problem with the current talent identification model in football is that it is based only on performance in the context of the game. While this is clearly important to football, it fails to recognise the other multi-faceted elements that bring about team success. For instance, it does not tell the observer how well the player trains, the psychology of the player, their room for improvement, or if they would be the right player to fit into the team. The real issue here is that there is too much focus on trying to spot ‘the next big thing’, rather than the best player for the team, coach, position or sometimes, more importantly, the ethos of the club. Pitch may have the answer here and its actually based on some ideas associated with the book book Moneyball, written by Michael Lewis, based on Billy Beane’s work as general manager with the Oakland Athletics and most recently adapting into a film starring Brad Pitt, is about how to build a great baseball team using the most intricate of statistics. This is interesting because managers, scouts and heads of recruitment have since tried to do this in football, with mixed success. It is a simple philosophy – stop looking for superstars and start looking for the right person for the team. Build an ethos and family culture at the club which centres around shared moral values, develop a sense of community and start to develop players with desired characters, attitudes and psychological attributes who also possess a willingness to be coached to further develop their talent.

However, the problem with this ideal is that it goes against the historical culture of football, especially in the UK, and let’s face it, few people like change. Nevertheless, some managers have done this well, Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, developed this type of ethos at Manchester United and rumour has it that the hairdryer blasting knighted Scot knew all the names of his staff, from the cleaners to groundsman, and not in a superficial way either. He would ask how little Bobby was and how the grandchildren were doing. He would also instil this into his players and invite family along to club events. Sir Alex was one of the most successful club managers of all time and got average teams to win games. So maybe there is something there that we need to consider.

Do we really need a team full of superstars? Probably not, only a few and the rest can be made up of team players. So Pitch your talent today, get recognised by scouts, coaches and managers in the UK.