Modern Scouting with David Bujara
David Bujara started as an opposition analyst, learned how to scout players and opponents’ tactics. In the process, he learned how to create his own templates. He has worked with different clubs across the UK, St Mirren, Brentford, Wolves, Crawley Town are among clubs he has scouted for.
So let's start from the beginning: when did you decide to become a football scout?
Although I have had a love of football for a while, this is only the end of my 4th season as a scout. It is one of those jobs that you know exists, but never know how to get into. I had read a newspaper article on scouting courses in the UK, and decided to give it a go. So I contacted every local semi-pro club in my area, and asked if someone would give me a chance as a volunteer scout. Luckily @RACAFC1970 (Ryton & Crawcrook Albion FC) were interested so I began as their opposition scout in the @theofficialnl (Ebac Northern Football League) Division 2.
There's a brilliant piece on your blog which showed your evolution from those times. Of note are the demands of the Brentford period. What has changed from when you started in terms of scouting?
When I started everything was live, so making notes, scribbling down set-piece diagrams, noting patterns in play; it all had to be done on the fly, or during a break in play. When I moved to Brentford, due to the international reach of their recruitment, a lot was done via video, so you had the option to pause the video, write down notes, and then carry on. The pressure was on a lot more at Brentford too, due to the level of the club and the reverence of their recruitment set-up, but I really loved my time at both clubs.
What is one thing you wish you knew when you started, and what was the biggest success you had in your first scouting job?
Not so much knew, but I wish I had been more open and confident when approaching other football people, and had made more solid connections. You can be the best judge of a player, and your reports may be written superbly, but if you cannot network you are doomed.
I was quite shy, and it is still something I have to push myself with even now. My biggest success was getting my role as National Opposition Scout for Crawley Town in October 2018. It was a huge opportunity and I had sole responsibility for all the reports.
The club and the management team were brilliant with me, and supportive of the fact I was doing this time-consuming role on top of my regular Monday to Friday job.
Talking about networking: scouts go unnoticed in modern football despite their pivotal role. How would you go about getting a scouting job now, and how would you build your network?
Getting a role is even more difficult than when I started. There are so many people out there who want to be scouts, and do the various courses available, and then apply for the limited roles. For me the best thing is to go and do some practice reports at a local match.
Google for a rough template, and fill it in after the match. From this you get a basic idea of what its like at a match taking notes and then writing reports, and you are building a portfolio of work to approach a club with. Start by speaking to local clubs about volunteering, getting a feeling for the role, and look to connect to other football people at matches and on social media. I got ad-hoc opposition work whilst at Wolves Academy and St. Mirren through contacts I had made on LinkedIn.
Which do you prefer: opposition scouting or player scouting, and why?
Probably opposition scouting. I like seeing the big picture, putting the pieces of the puzzle together. How can we hurt them, and how will they look to hurt us? How do they look to play from the back, how are they likely to attack down the flanks?...it’s interesting.
The reports, however, take a lot longer to write up than the player reports I have been doing. Do the write up on the players, the in-game actions and patterns of play, set-piece diagrams, penalty diagrams, plus anything else the manager wants, it can take an age!
Is there any memorable match analysis which you are particularly proud of?
The one I had on my blog, my very first piece I had ever written, that will always be special. Opposition reports are an up and down discipline. I did a report on Crewe for Crawley and pointed out that Ng would step out on the ball and no one would fill in, or shuffle across. If we could win the ball quickly in the middle third, and just play through the hole, we could score and that’s what happened. Brilliant! But the other side is I did my first report for Crawley on Tranmere, was very thorough, and we got beat 5-1. I could have cried.
Football can be brutal. How do you deal with poor outcomes?
You have to look and think "was there something I missed" and then correct it for the next report, but ultimately what happens at training in preparation for the match, and what happens on the pitch during the match is out of your hands. It does really hurt to flick onto @SkySportsNews and see your club are getting, or have been beat, but you have to let it go and not get hung-up on the result. Make sure your work is right and you are doing your small part of a very big process
Sound advice. Liverpool's recent success seems to herald football Moneyball revolution. What are your thoughts on data scouting?
It is a much-needed part of the whole recruitment process. What data does, IMO, is to help you filter and short-list from the thousands of potential players down to a manageable number to look at further. Adding onto this the availability of video from all over the globe clubs are no longer stuck watching live matches only, viewing matches in their immediate area due to the expense travel can bring, and they can view players in places that they would not have previously looked at. The marriage of data analysis and profiling, video scouting via clips and full matches, and finally live viewing of players is the prefect trinity for recruitment. Not every club can cover all three aspects, but doing so will give you the most rounded picture of a player.
In your view, the modern scout has to appreciate and possibly apply both types of scouting?
Appreciate, definitely. I love live scouting, and I am comfortable using video packages to view players. Data analysis is still something that I miss the real insight and nuances of. It is a specialised skill set, but it is something that I would tell any person thinking about getting into scouting to look at. If nothing else it is another feather in your cap, but it is maybe you are drawn more to the analysis side of things over the eyeball scouting. In a perfect world you would have specialists in all these areas to make the perfect recruitment team, but the cost is very much against most clubs.
I like to think they complement each other. Besides, there are individual attributes we can't codify, like temperaments and other personality traits.
How do you assess these non-football aspects of a player?
There is always going to be a personal bias when judging these aspects of a player, and really, apart from experience in watching and being involved in football, you can’t do anything but give your own honest opinion on a player's temperament, attitude, body language etc.
How do you avoid bias in your own work?
You have to try and be as objective as you can in your writing. You are never going to be able to extinguish all aspects of this, but minimize it by writing what you see, and staying away from why you believe it happened. I was very subjective in my writing style Up to Jan of this year, but after talking to 3 or 4 senior football people, I have started approaching my writing differently. There is, of course, an area for subjective comment, but this should be a wrap up to a report, rather than the major body of work.
What's the worst advice you got when you started?
Nothing really. All the advice I have had has been useful in some way. Sometimes it is useful in the moment, or a simple reminder not to let things get to you too much (which was a big problem for me at times, the uncertainty and my lack of patience), and sometimes. it is bits that you think about regularly, and try to out into action every time you write a report. I myself, have probably given some "bad advice" but its always honest and comes from how I feel scouting should be done, or the best ways to progress. I remember someone told me early in my career, not to take things to heart, and I completely ignored that, and was too strong-headed and argumentative with a fellow scout, and made a complete idiot of myself on a club chat group. So make sure you pay attention to all advice!
Who did you look up to as a scout? What books and courses would you recommend to (new) scouts?
I didn't really know any before I started, but I have met loads of people who I admire for their work ethic, their dedication, their eye for a player. People who have given me support and advice through my career, and who have given me the opportunity to do work in bits and pieces or over longer periods. First names only but Mark, Mark, Karl, Dave, Eddie, Luke, Richard, loads and loads more out there.
Books, The No Where Men; The European Game; The Mixer, these are three I come back to time and time again.
Courses are a funny one. The FA Level 1 talent ID is free online. Ged Searson does a selection of courses and I enjoyed the Level 1 I did, and hope to do the Level 2 in the future. @ipsofootball courses are in depth, and are being ran online currently
David Bujara works as scout for Al Sahel FC.
You can read more of his thoughts on scouting here