The Newcastle United Scouting Myth
The last couple of seasons Newcastle United have had massive praise for the way they have recruited new players. There is no doubt that they have bought well for their money in spending relatively less than most of their rivals, or at least in terms of the quality of player that they have brought into the club, but it is exactly the level of praise for the type of player that has been bought is where the issue lies for me.
There is not a problem with the footballing level of the new recruits from the past two years, but it is more the over-blown reaction from the media and most notably from former players or coaches, the so-called experts, who for some have obviously quite limited knowledge of the game outside the UK. There is a consistent wave of appreciation in the media for the scouting talents at Newcastle as if they have visited the far-flung regions of East Africa or Outer Mongolia to find rare gems for at very little or no cost, but this is just not the case.
Newcastle’s head scout Graham Carr has received fantastic praise, and to an extent quite rightly so, for his work in recruiting certain players since ‘The Magpies’ won promotion two years ago, but it is the over the top level that grates on me. It is clear that since his arrival at the club he has, in conjunction with Pardew, had a clear strategy in clearing out expensive established Premier League players such as Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton and the like and has subsequently replaced them, most notably from France and Germany, with arguably better players at a reasonably lower cost. This though has been blown-up into a continuous theme that Newcastle and Carr have been out scouring Europe and really found some fantastic potential in a band of relatively unknown players. This is just not case!
The vast majority of the players are established internationals and have been in amongst the top players in their former leagues, typically Ligue un and the Bundesliga, which as we know are two of the best leagues in the world. Below is a list of the top players over the last two years that Newcastle have recruited and a quick background on what type of player they all are:
Cheick Tiote – Ivory Coast international and played under Steve McClaren in the Twente Dutch title winning side two years ago.
Papiss Cisse – Senegalese international played for Freiburg prior to Newcastle and in his final season was second top goal scorer in the Bundesliga, losing out only to Bayern’s Mario Gomez. This was also the record for most goals scored by an African in the German top flight.
Hatem Ben Arfa – Talent wise maybe the best of them all. Ben Arfa was a part of the famous French youth team that included Benzema and Nasri. All football followers without their heads in the sand the past five plus years have known of his existence and he has been scouted by all the top teams in Europe. If it were not for prior disciplinary problems would almost certainly be playing for one of these teams by now.
Moussa Sissoko – Tough tackling midfielder who is also a French international. He is also a player that has been watched by many a top team in Europe the past 2-3 years, and it is anyone’s guess as to why he hasn’t been picked up already.
Mathieu Debuchy – French international right back, which played against England at Euro 2012 last summer. Another stalwart of Lille the last many years and part of their double winning side with Yohan Cabaye.
This list could go on involving other players like Davide Santon, Sylvain Marveaux and Yoan Goufrann. Etc.
ESPN’s Soccer went as far as saying the following in September last year : “As Newcastle’s chief scout , Graham Carr, attracts increasing praise for unearthing talents such as Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse”.
I am sorry, but this is just an overwhelming overreaction. This is the standard rhetoric regarding Newcastle’s scouting system these days and it is just wide of the mark. Carr has not unearthed these players, they were already established top players. If you want examples of unearthing gems then you look at Nottingham Forest plucking Roy Keane from Irish football in his teens, or Manchester United seeing the potential of an unproven Javier Hernandez in Mexico and giving him a chance, not established players being taken from Ligue Un or the Bundesliga.
There is no doubt that the Newcastle staff have done well in scouting these players, negotiating relatively low transfer fees and ultimately bringing them to the football club, but for the media to continue to heap praise on them like they have done something miraculous is just showing up their own lack of knowledge of the football world outside of The Premier League.
There is no doubt that it has made good sense bringing in the players that they have, but it has by no means been as groundbreaking as some would have us to believe and I for one am tired of hearing about what an achievement it has been, and it does nothing more than to just show how sometimes some of my countrymen can occasionally forget that football also thrives beyond the English Channel.
Thanks to Anthony Vernon for this article and to read more from him, visit the excellent the4thofficial website where this article first appeared.
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