Friday, January 14, 2011 by Paul Grech
Book Review: Scouting for Moyes by Les Padfield
If nausea happens to be your initial reaction upon seeing what this book is about, then it would be understandable. These days everyone remotely involved in the game of football seems all too eager to write down his life story irrespective of what comes out. So it is that you have players writing two or three biographies before they're in their mid-twenties, managers willing to say who they've fallen out with and why, fans believing that their passion outstrips that of anyone else and hooligans boasting how many heads they smashed in. A handful of these books have been memorable, the rest considerably less so.
So, it is only natural to fear the worst when you realise that a scout has now gotten in on the act.
Football scouts are everywhere, from kids' games to internationals, yet they might as well be invisible for all the attention they receive. And, in all honesty, that's how it should be. There might be one or two who are exceptions in that they spotted a talent that others had missed but most simply form part of a network and no decision is made exclusively on what they say.
This is something that Padfield proves in this book. Working at Bolton, he can name some players whom he had spoken highly of - Klasnic being the one he mentions most frequently - but given the time that goes by his recommendation and the actual transfer, he is honest enough to admit that others had also been asked to look at those same players before a decision was made. Not to mention that players he had warned against signing joined the club regardless of what he said.
And that is what elavates this book; Padfield's honesty. His opinion of managers doesn't seem to be particularly high while his lack of affection to the clubs he works for is slightly disturbing.
Nothing, however, beats the shock of realising the amateurish way scouts are picked up. Quite possibly, Padfield's experience was atypical but what got him in the world of scouting is simply a chance encounter with a former team-mate. No interviews to gauge his knowledge, or long talks about tactics; just the fact that he lived in London which is an area where a northern club happened to need someone to look at teams and players. Ultimately, you get to realise that scouts - or, at least, those who are similar to Padfield - are simply fans like the rest of us. They have no magic formula or keener sense of observation; they only have a little bit more experience.
His honesty is also what got him in trouble. A few weeks after this book was issued, Padfield was told that his services at Bolton were no longer required. Hardly surprising, given his constant (and justified) criticism of Zat Knight, Fabrice Muamba and Johann Elmander. At one point in the book he wonders that probably he hasn't got long at Bolton; words that turn out to be prophetic. Yet, if indeed it was this book that cost him his job, then it probably was worth it.
Scouting for Moyes could have benefitted from tighter editing: it would have been nice, for instance, if someone would have pointed out to Padfield that it is the Swiss who are famous for their neutrality rather than the Swedes before he embarks on a rant about Johan Elmander's inability to score. And the final few chapters, devoted as they are to the couple of weeks he spent in South Africa watching the World Cup, seem artificial when put in the context of the rest of the book and could (perhaps should) have been left out.
These faults and, let's admit it, the lack of any really notable players spotted by him mean that this book is neither memorable enough nor insightful to have any ambitions of being a classic. What it certainly is, however, is an enjoyable read and there aren't many football books coming out these days that can claim that.
PS: For those wondering, the title of the book is a joke by the author. To find exactly why that is, I'm afraid you'll have to read it.
Category Book Reviews