With so many hi-tech tools available for managers to assess players these days, it's possibly a surprise that football scouts, like Saturday-evening pink 'uns and balls with laces, haven't been relegated to history.
But most League clubs still employ a network of trusted observers to run the rule over potential transfer targets and prepare reports on forthcoming opponents, and Les Padfield, a teacher in his day job, started scouting for Preston under David Moyes and is currently clocking up the motorway miles for Bolton Wanderers.
His behind-the-scenes stories of this tight-knitworld are funny, intelligent and illuminating, made all the more enjoyable by his evident love for the game – an East Ender, he was a more than useful schoolboy player and interested Leyton Orient and Millwall, though when he visits Spurs as a scout, his former junior team-mate Harry Redknapp gives him the blank. He can be sharp – he describes three Bolton players as "not only too slow for yelled instructions from the touchline but too slow for smoke signals" – and gets frustrated when his reports are ignored, but his attitude is generally one of wry, self-deprecatory amusement.
From a failed attempt to watch Bromley versus Sturrock during last year's big freeze to an abortive trip to Nigeria to scout a player who then announces he has decided to become a doctor instead, from dropping his mobile phone down the lavatory at Wembley to being pressganged into service as the fourth official for Orient against Scunthorpe, Padfield remains a glass-half-full man.
A scout with talent of his own, he has produced a little gem of a book about one of the lesser-known aspects of the League scene, which is a far more enjoyable read than any number of ghostwritten player biographies.
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