Five suggestions for the Director of Scouting role

Louis Wishlade 15th June 2021

Louis suggests five individuals who meet the criteria for Fulham’s new Director of Scouting role.

Yesterday, I analysed and explained the role and responsibilities of the Director of Scouting, the criteria that individuals must meet for the job, and how this position slots into Fulham’s hierarchical structure. The criteria set out by the club establishes that only a select few have the knowledge, experience and ability can realistically apply, with the criteria even ruling out popular option Roy Hodgson.

Steve Walsh, who has held roles at Chelsea, Newcastle, Leicester, Hull and Everton over the years is rumoured to be in for the role. He is credited for discovering Gianfranco Zola, Didier Drogba, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N’golo Kante, among others. However, who else would you like to see linked to becoming the Director of Scouting? Here are some recommendations.

Dan Ashworth

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Dan Ashworth held the of Academy Director of Peterborough United in 2000, before becoming Cambridge United’s Centre of Excellence Director in 2001. In 2004, he relocated to the midlands, becoming the Assistant Youth Team Manager West Brom, under ex-England U21s manager Aidy Boothroyd, before successive job promotions to beled him to the position of Baggies’ Youth Team Manager in 2004 and Sporting and Technical Director in 2007.

During his time at the Hawthorns, Ashworth nurtured the talent of Kemar Roofe, Romaine Sawyers, Chris Wood and Luke Daniels, with The Athletic stating that he “carved out a strong reputation for his excellent coaching”. Dan also oversaw a successful transfer strategy, with the affordable signings of Peter Odemwingie, Jonas Olsson and Claudio Yacob, although there were also some failures. After five years with the Baggies, Ashworth was snapped up by the FA and appointed the Director of Elite Development, aiding the creation of the “England DNA”, which created the glut of young talent which England currently possesses.

Now, Ashworth holds the role of Technical Director at Brighton and Hove Albion – a position similar to Director of Football. Having joined in late 2018/19, the difference in strategy and playing style is notable, with Dan focusing on youth and continuous improvement – two values that Fulham should look to utilise. In 2019/20, the first full season with both Ashworth and Graham Potter, Ashford oversaw the purchases of the likes of Tariq Lamptey, Adam Webster and Leandro Trossard, whilst Aaron Connolly and Steven Alzate both broke into the first team. Although the purchases of Neil Maupay and Aaron Mooy have been somewhat less successful.

Over the last 12 months, Ashworth has bought five players under the age of 21 and promoting another from the youth set-up. Three of these youngsters become features of the first team. At the same time, he has also made careful and calculated purchases of experienced talents, such as Adam Lallana and Joel Veltman, which will surely help the Seagulls progress into the future.

Ross Wilson

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Wilson talked his way into a player liaison job at Falkirk through a stellar interview in 2004 with their then-manager John Hughes. However, he was soon put to other uses with his role expanded to include dealing with agents, developing an academy strategy and organising a training ground relocation. Wilson brought in the Head of Academy Scouting and arranged the deployment of scouts, leading to the young talents of Scott Arfield, Murray Wallace, Ryan Flynn, Conor McGrandles, Stephen Kingsley, Jay Fulton and Tony Gallagher emerging, with their sales to English teams earning Falkirk more than £5 million collectively, while Falkirk achieved Scottish Premier League status for five consecutive seasons between 2005 and 2010 – a club record.

Wilson too moved down south, assuming the role of Head of Recruitment at Watford, forming a “strong bond” with the club’s Academy Director before leaving after just one season as the Pozzo family bought the club in 2012. He moved onto fellow Championship side Huddersfield to become their newly-created Head of Football Operations, which involved overseeing the transition to the second division as well as improving the academy, scouting and training facilities.

In 2015, Wilson joined Premier League club Southampton as the Director of Scouting and Recruitment, before being promoted to Director of Football Operations in 2018. There, Wilson signed the likes of Virgil Van Dijk, Danny Ings, Nathon Redmond, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Although, like with all Directors of Football, his list of signings is blotted with the names of a few failures. He also oversaw successful succession planning, following the departure of key squad players and managers during his time on the South coast and the continued progression of youth.

Wilson returned to Scotland in 2019, joining Rangers to oversee their recruitment, academy, medical and training infrastructure as their Sporting Director on the quest to topple Celtic alongside Steven Gerrard. While in Glasgow, Wilson has purchased some real talent, such as Kemar Roofe, Ianis Hagi and Cedric Itten, and youngster Nathan Patterson was promoted to aid the Ibrox side to their first SPL title win in a decade. Prying Wilson away from the reigning Scottish champions may prove near-on impossible, but with his track record, it’s certainly worth a try.

Steve Hitchen

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Steve Hitchen is rumoured to be on his way out of his current club, Tottenham Hotspur, as the North London club are expected to announce the appointment of Fabio Paratici as their new Director of Football in the coming days. This means that Hitchen, who currently controls Tottenham’s transfers as he occupies the Technical Director role, will effectively be rendered ineffective. This is something that has reportedly upset Tottenham staff and players, with some potentially on the way out of Hotspur Way.

Hitchen, previously a defender for Macclesfield Town and Blackburn Rovers, began working as as a scout for Tottenham in 2008 before leaving for Liverpool in 2011. However, after just a year, the Salford-born man returned to London, working for QPR as a scout between 2012 and 2016, when Steve moved to Derby County and assumed the role of Head Scout.

However, Hitchen only lasted a matter of months at the Rams, taking a sabbatical from football before being headhunted for Tottenham’s Chief Scout role in early 2017. In January 2019, Hitchen was promoted to the Technical Director role. Thus, during his time at Tottenham, Hitchen has played a part in the signing of talents such as Lucas Moura, Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon, Giovani Lo Celso, Sergio Reguilon and Pierre Emile Hojbjerg. Spurs have also given debuts to Kyle Walker-Peters, Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga.

Hitchen seems to have a penchant for young prospects, which the club can develop, while also recruiting some experience. However, his record is not clean, with some less successful signings including Fernando Llorente, Joe Hart and Juan Foyth. Hitchen may be worth a gamble, especially as he meets the experience and philosophy criteria, should his head be turned following the Paratici controversy.

Les Reed

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Les Reed is a name that Fulham fans may recognise, having worked under Lawrie Sanchez as a coach, before becoming the club’s Director of Football in 2007. It was Les Reed who signed Danny Murphy, Diomansy Kamara, Brede Hangeland, Steven Davies, Chris Baird, Aaron Hughes, Paul Konchesky and Chris Smalling, among others. However, Reed’s football career contains experience at every level from the conference to the national team.

Reed started his career by winning the double with non-league Wealdstone in 1985, before becoming the FA’s development officer, where he worked with the likes of Joe Cole, Sol Campbell and Michael Owen over a period of nine years. He left the FA for Charlton Athletic to become Assistant Manager to Alan Curbishley, who himself would later become Fulham’s rather unsuccessful Technical Director, coach and caretaker manager later down the line. Les rejoined the England set up in 1998 as one of Kevin Keegan’s coaching team, before becoming the Technical Director in 2002.

Reed would return to Charlton in 2006 as an assistant, after being sacked by the FA in 2004. However, after a matter of months, he was promoted to the role of Manager for an infamously terrible six-week period. It was then when he joined Fulham. In 2010, Reed was appointed as Southampton’s Head of Football Development and Support, later becoming Vice-Chairman. He oversaw the incredibly successful academy and scouting and recruitment departments, as well as other medical and commercial areas.

In 2018, Reed returned once again to the England set-up as the Technical Director. However, he has recently left that post to assume a place on Wrexham’s board in an advisory role for the Welsh side’s new Hollywood owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds. Whether a recruitment role back on the banks of the Thames could tempt Reed is unknown, however, his wealth of experience could certainly aid Tony Khan.

Eduardo Macia

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Eduardo Macia is one of the most important names in football who you have probably never heard of. He started his career with Valencia, spending more than two decades at the club (dates and details are hazy) as an advisor and executive assistant. He later became their Sporting Director between 2004 and 2006, dragging the squad value from €45,000,000 to €180,000,000, with the notable signing of Edu on a Bosman.

Macia then became Liverpool’s Chief Scout in 2004, where he stayed until 2010. The Spaniard contributed to the signings of Dirk Kuyt, Fernando Torres, Lucas Lieva, Javier Mascherano and Alberto Aquilani. Macia worked in a close partnership with the Academy Manager, Frank McParand, bringing in many young talents, such as Raheem Sterling, and helping to introduce them to first-team football. However, after some Hodgson-based controversy, the Spaniard left Merseyside.

After a short spell as the Technical Director of Olympiacos, Macia joined Fiorentina, originally as a scout in 2011 before becoming Technical Director in 2012. Eduardo oversaw the signing of nearly 20 players in his first season, rebuilding the Viola’s squad, with the signings of Juan Cuadrado, Gonzalo Rodrigues, Stefan Savic, Guiseppe Rossi and Alberto Aquilani helping Fiorentina to Europa League football. Macia helped the Italian side to repeat this feat the next year, with the signings of Joaquin, Josip Ilicic and Mario Gomez. In 2015, Macia joined Betis, helping the team to promotion to the first division despite their economic troubles, and building a talented side with the purchases of Joaquin, German Pezzela and Petros.

In 2016, Macia became Leicester City’s Head of Scouting and Recruitment, in a bid for the Foxes to cement their place towards the top of the table after their Premier League title-winning season. In his three seasons in the midlands, Macia oversaw the signing of a Wilfred Ndidi, Harry Maguire, Kelechi Iheanacho, James Maddison, Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans and Caglar Soyuncu, helping Leicester to become a regular top six side. After leaving the Foxes, Macia had a short spell as a scout at Bordeaux, however, he is currently unemployed and ripe for picking as a Director of Scouting.

It remains to be seen who’s applied and who the club will ultimately opt for, but each of these five men could certainly help us build a more sustainable and successful side for the future, given the chance.