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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 July 2006, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Scouting mission
By Sarah Holt

John Terry
Terry has captained Chelsea to two straight league titles
He is the man who discovered England defender John Terry and enabled Chelsea to make a 14m profit on Tore Andre Flo.

Meet Gwyn Williams, who used to be responsible for travelling the world in search of the finest footballing talent for the Premiership champions.

A scout is undoubtedly one of the most important figures at any club. But what exactly does the job involve and how do you go about unearthing the next big thing?

Williams lets us in on his tricks of the trade, developed during 27 years at Stamford Bridge.

LET THE SEARCH BEGIN

I used to spend almost every night of the week out and about, looking at games at different levels.

On a Monday, I might watch Chelsea reserves to monitor how the next generation at the club were coming along.

On Tuesday I could go to a lower league club and see who they had got there.

A scout should do extensive background checks on a player

Former Chelsea chief scout Gwyn Williams

Sometimes I would get a tip-off about a player or an agent would ring me to recommend a player from Auxerre, Paris or Porto.

In the space of a week, I would be at an under-20 tournament in Toulon, an under-17 event in Luxembourg and then an under-21 tournament in Portugal.

I would be looking at players all the time and you had to keep an open mind.

TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY?

If I saw someone I liked, I would go back and report on him to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho. I also worked with director of youth Frank Arnesen, who is in control of the under-18s.

Sometimes Jose asked me to go and watch a player to find out what he could and couldn't do. Or he might say: "I need a left-back. Go and find one". Occasionally, Jose would go out and look for himself.

If the target was a young kid, the next step would be to do a deal with his club and get him in for a few days of training.

We would also do background checks on the player. Is he a strong character? Does he get drunk all the time? Is he reliable? How often does he get injured?

It's not a scout's decision who the club does and doesn't buy. I could recommend someone but, in my case, it was then down to Jose and chief executive Peter Kenyon to decide if they wanted to sign them.

Peter dealt with the contractual side of things, what wages the players wants, the selling club's fee and the conditions of sale.

BATTLE FOR THE SIGNATURE

Last season I went to a French league match and there were six other Premiership clubs there.

I knew who everyone was looking at and they knew why I was there.

There was a bit of gamesmanship after the match when I was talking to the player's agent. He might say, "Well, we have three clubs interested now".

It is a game of bluff, so you have to move quickly.

If a player is as good as Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, any scout would have to put his head on the line and say yes or no straight away.

WHEELING AND DEALING

The best player I recommended for Chelsea was Tore Andre Flo, who we signed for next to nothing from Norwegian club Brann.

We paid 250,000 to bring him in before the end of his contract and then sold him to Rangers for 14m - not a bad bit of business.

Tore Andre Flo in action for Chelsea in 2000
Norwegian international Flo scored 50 goals in his three-year spell

John Terry was another one I spotted. We signed him on his 14th birthday and he has done great.

I saw him playing for Essex county schools. He went training twice a week with them and on a Sunday played for Chelsea schoolboys.

He was a fantastic kid and has been so good right through from when I signed him until now.

I had Jason Cundy before him. Jason used to be small and slender, like John was when he was young, but turned out to be a brute of a centre-half.

When they are young, you have to follow your nose. The biggest thing that struck me about John was his character - it was great.

NEW FRONTIERS

My role as chief scout also involved match assessment. So if Chelsea were playing Manchester United, I would go and watch them two weeks in advance and look at their team tactics and set-plays.

Video technology and television has obviously changed this side of a scout's work.

Another reason the role of a scout has changed so much is because agents play such a big role now.

And the academies in this country have changed a scout's domestic role because clubs take on kids aged eight and they go all the way through.

I also used a computer database of 70,000 footballers, which could immediately call up all their statistics for the last four years.

However, there are some truths that have always held true. If you buy six players, then four of the six need to be good.

And every single player you buy will turn out to be different than you had initially thought.

* Gwyn Williams stepped down as Chelsea's chief scout in June

SEE ALSO
Williams leaves Stamford Bridge
07 Jun 06 |  Chelsea
Want to be a football pro?
14 Sep 05 |  Get Involved


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