BEHIND the scenes at Rangers, Director of Football Mark Allen has been hard at work creating a brand new scouting department to ensure the Light Blues recruit the best talent to return them to the top of Scottish football.
Allen has deliberately kept a low profile since his appointment until such times as his new setup was finalised – and he has made a number of appointments to his new team to assist him in improving the club’s recruitment process.
First, Allen has appointed the experienced Andy Scoulding as his Head of Scouting.
Attracting someone of Scoulding’s calibre was vital to him, and he explained: “If you look at Andy’s track record, he has been involved in forming high-level scouting networks and has over 15 years of footballing experience. He comes with a track record of working in high-performance arenas.
“He is multi-disciplined. He has worked in England at Fulham and Liverpool and he worked with the England National Team where he was responsible for putting together their scouting network which looked at potential England players. More recently, he has worked in Spain with Valencia.
“Andy was the candidate who stood out as he had a clear understanding of what this club is and the opportunity to take it to the next level. I think that is a very attractive proposition in itself, coupled with the ability to start with a clean sheet of paper.
‘’The real positive is you get a chance to put your stamp on it and put your team in place. You don’t often get that opportunity of a blank canvas and I think that was very much a positive in terms of Andy looking at this role.”
Since his arrival, both Scoulding and Allen have been working out the best path forward for Rangers and have looked at a number of different areas in terms of recruiting players for the club.
Allen continued: “In the modern game, as it stands now, I think you need a strategy for how you are going to recruit, where you are going to recruit and why you are going to recruit.
“I think Andy brings experience in all of those areas in addition to my own background previous to Rangers.
‘’In today’s game you need strategy, intelligence and eyes. You need to know how to build databases, how to build dossiers on players and be looking at what they are doing on and off the pitch etc. The final and most critical part is you need the eyes to be able to go out and watch games live to confirm what the intelligence and video scouting is telling you.’’
As part of the ‘eyes’ aspect discussed by Allen, he and Scoulding have made three appointments to search for the best talent for Rangers.
First, they have recruited club icon John Brown and Allen believes bringing him on board was a no-brainer. He pointed out: “When you go back and look at some of those characteristics I mentioned in terms of the player profile, John is well-known to have had that history with Rangers Football Club and will know what a Rangers player looks like. He will be able to identify those sorts of characteristics.
“He has a track record in scouting previously and he was an easy choice for me and one I wanted to make almost immediately.
“John will head up the domestic side of things and look at Scotland and the rest of the UK. However, the great thing about this department is it is inter-dependent.
“John was an easy choice for me in that respect. He knows what it is like to play for this football club and he knows the types of players who will succeed at this football club in terms of characteristics and he is also able to ascertain and know whether a player can cope with the intensity.”
Dave Swanick is a name which will be less well-known to Rangers supporters, but Allen believes he will add plenty to the club.
Allen said: “I know Dave from his previous role at Aston Villa where he was European scouting manager. He will drive the European element of this, and we have got to be prepared in terms of looking far and wide for the right players for Rangers Football Club.
“Dave has a very good knowledge of all the markets in European football and has worked extensively throughout Europe. The intelligence might point you to certain leagues where players would have the correct profile and characteristics to play for Rangers Football Club.’’
Finally, Billy McLaren, who has headed up the club’s Academy scouting system for a number of years, now comes under Scoulding and Allen’s control.
“Billy provides experience and continuity,” explained Allen. “Billy has worked in the Academy arena for many years, and the Academy transition is very important. Identifying young, up and coming players is very important in terms of the overall philosophy of the football club. Billy has all the domestic knowledge and he has the link with the Academy.
“Dave Stevenson, who will replace Billy in the Academy setup, will join us from the SFA and Rob Clarkson, who is going to come in late November from Manchester City, will take the responsibility of coordinating all the planning activities around the scouts. He will make sure they are going to the right games, identifying those games and following upon player reports for those games as well as scouting himself.
“So there will be six or seven pairs of eyes – myself and Andy included – that will be out there at different times making sure we are scouting potential Rangers footballers for the future and making sure we work together window by window, season by season.”
In addition to those positions, Katy Lamont, the club’s Player Liason Officer, will have a major role in the department in terms of logistics and looking after any new arrivals.
Player scouting, as Allen alluded to, doesn’t just involve going and watching an individual in person – it can take the form of watching them and their specific attributes on video here at the Rangers Training Centre.
Allen explained: “Again, a lot of analysis comes in in terms of recruitment and, as I say, you can’t just take one discipline in isolation In my opinion, you can’t have a department which is just full of eyes if you like.
“You need the technical skills behind it to make sure we are cutting the right clips on players so that when we are presented with potential players we can see what players are like in possession, out of possession and all of those things I have spoken about.
“The analysis guys can pull the clips together, they can cut them and we can present them as part of a review prior to recruiting the player That is a vital part in terms of your intelligence gathering and building of your database.”