Scout still pulling rabbits out of hats

Man who was instrumental in signing Drogba and Essien is now ensuring nobody slips through the net at Hull

The training session is over and the players are on their way home, but Steve Walsh's day is far from finished. There are scouting reports to analyse and arrange, phone calls to take from agents and DVDs of players to watch. If there were times when assistant managers did little more than bark out the boss's instructions on the practice ground, they have gone the way of terraces and nailed studs.

There is no more crucial cog in the machinery of a modern club than the man responsible for bringing in new players, which is reflected by Hull City's management structure. Nigel Pearson, the manager, has two assistants: Craig Shakespeare is first-team coach, while Walsh is head of recruitment.

If Shakespeare and the goalkeeping coach, Joe Corrigan, are a public face of the backroom staff, nobody, least of all Pearson, undervalues the work of 54-year-old Walsh, who has worked behind the scenes at various clubs since the end of his non-League playing career.

For 30 years, Walsh combined his football with a full-time teaching job, having been head of physical education at three comprehensive schools. He was working part-time for Chelsea, where he had recommended the signing of players like Tore Andre Flo and Gianfranco Zola, when Jose Mourinho asked him to become a full-time senior scout. Walsh worked closely with Mourinho's assistant, Andre Villas Boas, and was instrumental in the signing of key Mourinho recruits such as Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.

Sam Allardyce lured Walsh to Newcastle, where he first linked up with Pearson, before following the latter to Leicester. They signed 32 players in two seasons as the Foxes won League One and reached the Championship play-offs.

Both men, along with Shakespeare, moved on last summer to Hull, where the new management team have turned the club's fortunes around following relegation from the Premier League. The wage bill has been cut in half, putting huge emphasis on Walsh's recruiting skills. Of Hull's 33 registered players, 10 have been signed permanently by the new regime, six are on loan and seven have been loaned out elsewhere.

"Nigel and I often joked about pulling rabbits out of hats when we were at Leicester," Walsh said. "When we got here the situation was so difficult that we talked about someone even pinching our hat, but we played the loan market and we've slowly but surely got our own players in."

Investment by Assem Allam, Hull's new owner, enabled Pearson to splash the cash on Matt Fryatt and Aaron Mclean in January, but the manager remains heavily reliant on Walsh's scouting team, headed by David Mills, the former Middlesbrough striker. The network is not as extensive as, for example, Chelsea's, which costs millions to run, but enables Walsh to build a detailed database of players.

Walsh spends less time on the road these days – he watches all Hull's home games from the stand with a video analyst, Laurence Stewart, feeding observations to the bench – which means the quality of his scouting team is crucial. "You need experienced, quality scouts because you'll only be as good as the information those guys bring in," Walsh said. "You need to invest in your scouting because the more times you see a player lessens any risk when you sign him."

On a noticeboard above Walsh's desk is a schedule showing the matches – 30 or more in a week – his men will be attending. They include non-League matches, Premier League fixtures and internationals. Some are covered to scout Hull's future opponents, others because Walsh is interested in a particular player.

The reports on Championship rivals go into great detail. The scout outlines how teams play, their areas of strength and weakness, how they line up at set-pieces and how they can be beaten. There are individual comments on every player, including a note of the level at which the scout thinks they could play in future, a mark out of 10 and a grading. Players are graded A ("worth signing"), B ("worth keeping a watch on") or C ("not worth considering").

"We ask our scouts to go in without any pre-conceived ideas," Walsh said. "We just want to know what the players did in that match. All the time we're building pictures of players. Our technical analyst will sift through all the reports and tell me about the players who come up consistently as As or Bs. Then we'll start to take more interest in them."

Walsh keeps an eye on all players released on free transfers, in Britain and overseas, and takes a special note of those leaving bigger clubs. "If players are at Premier League clubs they've already gone through a big filter process," he said. "The players the big clubs don't want sometimes have to drop down a level to redevelop."

Lower down the scale, Walsh monitors players' first-team appearances. "If they've only played three times in a season you're suspicious," he said. "If they've played 35 games you know they might be worth looking at."

Walsh admits that some talent still slips through the net, recalling how he watched one match overseas in which he failed to spot the potential of two future Premier League players. "I was working for a Premier League club at the time and I didn't think either of the players were good enough for us," he said. "Yet they've both gone on to have good careers."

The misses, nevertheless, are heavily outweighed by the hits. The depth and quality of Walsh's research is evident in the range of Hull's recruits, from products of the Manchester United academy – James Chester, Cameron Stewart and Corry Evans – to out-of-contract senior professionals like Robert Koren, James Harper and Liam Rosenior, and a Tunisian international formerly with Slavia Prague, Tijani Belaid.

Rosenior, who had left Fulham, shows how it is not always money that talks. "I couldn't believe we got him for nothing," Walsh said. "He came to train with us on the Monday, he played in the reserves on the Wednesday and we offered him a contract on the Thursday. Now he's the best right-back in the Championship."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
books
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Sport
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
transfers
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn