Turning out each and every week to run around a gloomy, mud-spattered pitch takes a certain amount of dedication to the game. Especially when you are playing for a Non-League team with seemingly no hope of progressing through the ranks.
Although Jamie Vardy’s ‘zero-to-hero’ experience undoubtedly plants a seed of hope that someone of influence may just be out there watching, for many young players being scouted for a higher level team is just a distant dream. Or is it?
Perhaps as a result of ‘striking gold’ when taking a chance on Vardy, scouts are now keeping a keen eye on teams lower down the ladder, as teamwear supplier Kitlocker discovered in a recent interview with Crystal Palace’s chief scout Tim Coe and Revo Sports Management scout Joel Purkiss.
The top scouts revealed that all eyes are on lower league teams, and professional clubs are more than ready to take a chance on fresh talent.
“We spend the vast majority of our time watching lower league and Non-League football,” said Coe. “There is a lot of talent and potential and there are a lot of examples of players who have risen through the levels to play at the highest level.”
Purkiss added: “Scouting at a grass-roots level is very important. There are so many players that are good enough to compete in professional leagues but, for whatever reason, haven’t been picked up. They may have been dropped by an academy or simply didn’t get the chance.”
The scouts went on to detail exactly what they are looking for on a position-by-position basis:
TC: “In a goalkeeper we would look for handling and shot-stopping, command of the area, coming from the line and distribution.”
JP: “Full-backs now are typically very athletic and competent with the ball at their feet and are expected to get up and down the pitch as quickly as possible.”
TC: “For a centre-back we would look for defending against direct play, defending up the pitch, defending in the defensive third and using the ball and attacking set-pieces.”
JP: “In a central midfielder, coaches are looking for the whole package. Are they good on the ball? Can they tackle? Can they get into the box and score a goal? Can they provide for the rest of the team?”
WINGER JP: “Here we are looking for players whose first thought is to get forward. To attack and create chances for the forwards, as well as contributing goals themselves.”
JP: “Strikers are judged on one thing: goals. What can they produce in the opponents’ box? Are they clever with their runs? Do they create space for themselves and others? Strikers should be natural in front of goal, they shouldn’t have to look at the target to know where it is.”
In many ways, it appears that Vardy has changed the outlook for young players.
“More and more players are being signed from Non-League football teams,” added Purkiss. “A lot of this is down to the success of Jamie Vardy and teams realising that there is a lot of talent that isn’t involved in a professional club.”
It shows that you’ve got to keep believing and never lose faith in your own ability. On any given day, there could be someone out there watching…