FC Utrecht faces unique challenges in terms of scouting and recruitment compared to Holland’s ‘Big Three’ clubs. We caught up with Alje Schut, Chief Scout at Utrecht, to discuss how they use data and video analysis to be competitive in the transfer market.
1) Creativity is key
Just like for the players on the pitch, creativity is one of the most useful skills for scouts and recruitment teams, especially when it comes to competing with clubs with bigger resources. The goal is the same — getting the best players — but workflows must be different.
“Of course, we don’t have the big budgets like Premier League or Serie A teams”, said Schut.“That means we have to be inventive, we have to be creative. We have to build a network that we can rely on. We have to see a lot of games.”
“It’s challenging because we cannot buy players that are a ’ finished product’, we have to sign them young. We know our position in the market so we know we have to sign them, develop them and then sell them on. OurU23team is playing in the second division, where they can gain a lot of experience. They can develop there and be groomed for the first team.”
2) Technology to the rescue
To unearth the next hidden talent teams like Utrecht need to search a wider range of territories, but with limited time, money and people they have turned to technology to assist them.
“We have five scouts at Utrecht”, said Schut.“That’s not a lot but we do want to see a lot of games. There’s a limited number of matches that you can see through live scouting. So, we watch a lot of videos.”
“We tend to watch the video first, run through data and then go to live scouting because if you just go to a country and start scouting, you will often be at the wrong match at the wrong time.“That’s why Wyscout helps us, having the best footage and all the leagues we need for our workflow. Our network of countries that we scout has grown a lot in the last decade as a result.”
3) From Orlando with… Data
But how does this apply to real-life, day-by-day scouting?. In the very last days of the transfer market,FCUtrecht’s captain Willem Janssen got injured and the scouting department had to find a replacement before the transfer window closed. They ended up signing Lamine Sane, who at time was playing for Orlando City in the MLS.
“We watched many videos and ran the data. Eventually, we were determined to sign Lamine but there was no time to scout him live in Orlando. So we were dependent on videos and data. We watched a lot of video footage — the five of us together — we analyzed the stats, watched some interviews online. We asked our network which kind of person he was.”
“Then we set up a conversation with him and we decided he was the right player. But in the end, we signed him without ever watching him play live”.