From scouting to signing - how Middlesbrough recruitment works ahead of summer transfer window

Middlesbrough head of football Kieran Scott
-Credit: (Image: Middlesbrough FC)


Middlesbrough are hoping to strengthen their squad again this summer, with plenty of planning and preparation having already taken place to identify the players they hope can add to what they've already got to aid ambitions of a promotion push next term.

Not expected to be anywhere near as busy as last summer when 12 new players arrived at the club, that work last summer to future-proof the squad has laid solid foundations that should allow Boro to be more focused in their recruitment to build on last season.

Since arriving at Boro, head of football Kieran Scott has overseen a large overhaul of the club's recruitment team which started with the appointment of then head of scouting Chris Jones. Former Crystal Palace scout Jones has since been promoted to head of recruitment, in recognition of the fact that he largely manages the scouting team, with Scott's role as head of football involving all football operations and not just recruitment.

READ MORE: Positions Middlesbrough could look to strengthen this summer as they plan promotion challenge

Between the pair, they have refurbished Boro's scouting team, with many appointments over the last two years to improve Boro's talent identification. It's so far proven successful for Boro too - with 15 players arriving last season in total.

Many of them were from foreign countries and could be classed as so-called hidden gems or untapped potential who arrived to make positive impacts at the Riverside in their first season. Their big successes were Rav van den Berg and Emmanuel Latte Lath who both enjoyed excellent campaigns having played in the Netherlands and Switzerland respectively before moving to Teesside.

With Boro, like many Championship clubs, struggling to compete for so-called ready-made talent in a financial landscape that sees most second-tier clubs paying out more money each year than comes in, trying to find value for money in the transfer market becomes key to competing with clubs who come down from the Premier League with the financial boost of parachute payments.

That's why recruiting in foreign markets where transfer fees are usually far lower, thus offering better value, has become such a valuable commodity and area of increasing exploration for Boro's scouting team. However, lacking the manpower to simply just scout every country in the world, Scott has offered insight into how Boro find players to scout.

During an appearance on the Twe12th Man podcast, Scott explained: "We scout a lot of players. Obviously, we’ve only got a certain amount of people. We haven’t got 30-40 full-time scouts who can blitz the world of football like some Premier League clubs have.

"So what we tend to do is a lot of video work within our base that helps point us in the right direction, and we also have a data team who might help point us in directions where we don’t necessarily have someone there to scope specific players out. When we’ve identified talents in that way, we share the names with the scouts and we try and hone in on the individuals that we like.

"We’ll maybe plan a trip to scout an individual or a group of individuals based on that prior identification work. The alternative is just picking say Rio de Janeiro, as an example, and just going and watching a load of games while there and hoping for the best. Instead, we try and be quite strategic with how that works.”

Scott has previously told how improving the scouting department was a key remit for him after he first arrived, though, he said, it was only really something that really made sense to ramp up once Michael Carrick arrived, given his receptiveness to the way in which Boro now operate in comparison to his predecessors.

Having also made clear his opinion that in-person scouting remains important to him in a landscape where many clubs rely solely on data and video scouting, Scott has expressed his delight in the level of player and scouting detail they are getting now.

Once players are identified, the next stage of course is working out which of those players Boro will actually try and sign. That part involves Carrick and his coaching team telling Scott and Jones what areas of the team they'd like to improve in each window, and the type of player or qualities they'd ideally like in that position. Scott and Carrick meet regularly throughout a season discussing such matters.

Once areas to strengthen are finalised ahead of a transfer window, from their list of scouted players, Jones and Scott will narrow down targets to create a shortlist of players to present to Boro's coaches who then take time to assess each option from the reports and video available before final decisions are made on who exactly to target.

It then becomes Scott's job to try and make a deal happen through negotiation with players, representatives and clubs. As far as this summer is concerned, Boro have their areas to strengthen finalised and in most cases, their targets locked in.

Sadly recruitment isn't quite as easy as identifying a player and signing him. Players have to be convinced and clubs have to be willing to sell at a price Boro deem viable. As such, there has to be room for flexibility in their planning, while they must always plan for the unexpected too.

Recent windows prove that Boro can react to ever-changing situations such as unexpected player sales or long-term injuries that can require a change in plans, while they are open to moving away from the ideal model of younger talent on permanent deals when necessary too.

Ahead of a summer transfer window which will once again prove important to Boro's ambitions of making it back to the Premier League, it's going to be very interesting to see the direction the club go in and the talent identified to come in.