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From Royals to the Palace – boy scout by appointment

Legal Eagle began his talent-spotting career at Reading while still an undergraduate

It's fair to say Tim Coe doesn't quite fit the usual description of a chief scout. Far from the archetypal "old bloke in a flat cap" at the back of the stands, the fresh-faced 27-year-old, who joined Crystal Palace in February, is the youngest in the Premier League and he has been combining his duties at Selhurst Park with the final year of training to be a solicitor.

"It's been a massive juggling act because the phone has been going and the emails have been flying through since we got promoted," admits Coe, who still has one more month of law training to complete. "The firm that I've been working with have been really great and that's enabled me to continue with the scouting on the side. It is pretty manic at the moment but I'll be pleased when I've just got one thing to focus on."

Not that Coe, who was managed by current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers when he played for the Reading youth team, isn't used to multitasking.

After a serious injury ended his own playing career, he went off to university to read law at the age of 20. But while most students work in the local bar to help pay the bills, Coe was scouting for Reading, reporting directly to chief scout Brian McDermott and manager Steve Coppell.

"It was an amazing opportunity for me because in my second year there we got promoted from the Championship with a record points tally," he remembers. "The following season I started doing the official match analysis for them in the Premier League so that was obviously a great experience for me."

After graduating, Coe spent three years at Aldershot Town as head of youth development and he has since combined spells at Huddersfield Town and Millwall with completing his articles. He still had a few months of his legal training to run when Palace's chairman, Steve Parish, came calling after previous chief scout David Sclanders left to join former Palace manager Dougie Freedman at Bolton.

Despite the busy schedule, Coe has worked closely with Parish and the current manager Ian Holloway to identify potential new players and was instrumental in the club record signing of Dwight Gayle from Peterborough United for nearly £5m and Spain Under-20 midfielder Jose Campana from Sevilla. Both came as a result of tireless research into more than 200 teams across Europe via a computerised scouting system called Wyscout that Coe acknowledges has allowed clubs to spread the net even wider than in the past.

"Campana was one that we'd come across playing for the Spanish youth sides over the years and had always been very impressed with," he says. "We were a bit surprised when the opportunity to sign him came along because he had a good pedigree. He had the opportunity to stay at Sevilla and a few of the bigger clubs over there were after him too but we were in the privileged position of being able to offer him the chance to play in the Premier League. That's a massive pull for players because it's such a great opportunity.

"Dwight Gayle was one that we were all pushing. I was quite adamant that he should be our No 1 target, which he turned out to be. We were really impressed by his fearless approach to playing in the Championship last year and he has flown through the levels in the last 18 months. That edge to his game allied to his pace is a really good combination."

Moroccan international Marouane Chamakh also joined from Arsenal this week on a permanent deal, although the bookmakers still rate Palace's chances of finally avoiding relegation from the Premier League at the fifth attempt as less than slim. Nonetheless, Coe is confident they will relish their role as underdogs and can defy the odds.

"If Ollie puts the team together as he has in the past then we can give it a really good fight and rise to the challenge," he says.

But with plenty on his plate already, the question of whether Coe will one day follow Rodgers or McDermott into management will have to wait.

"I really don't know," he says. "I haven't had too much of an opportunity to take my eyes off the here and now. I'm just looking forward to getting going in the new role full-time and seeing where we end up this season."