THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Derek Bragg: Potential talent should never get missed

Derek Bragg
Derek Bragg

Photo courtesy: AIFF Media

It was a Workshop which brought together all the three National Coaches. Besides National Coach Stephen Constantine and India U-19 National Team Coach Lee Johnson, even Nicolai Adam, India’s U-17 World Cup Head Coach took active part in the recently concluded Scouting Workshop conducted by AIFF.

In an exclusive interview to AIFF Media renowned Scout Derek Bragg, the man who conducted the Workshop spoke at length about the targets, the idea, the myth and reality of being a Scout, his experience and much more.


Tell us something about your rich experience. How did it all begin?
I played professional Football for Hertha Berlin in Germany (then West Germany) and have played both in the Bundesliga 1st and the 2nd division and did all my Coaching qualifications in Germany.
Later I took charge as Hertha’s Goalkeeping Coach and then came back to England to Coach in the League. It so happened that the Chief Scout left and the Head Coach wanted me to watch Players. Honestly, I had no idea of how to scout. Nevertheless, I was diligent enough and over the next few weeks made out the templates for my reports. I tried to maintain an accurate balance and eventually inherited the job of the Chief Scout.

So Scouting replaced Coaching?
As years went by, I was more into Scouting and less into Coaching. I started scouting in the Premier League and the Championship. By 2005, I build a database for all of my reports. And when I spoke to other Chief Scouts who were working simultaneously, I assumed that they were also doing the same. But surprisingly enough, most of the Clubs were not using technology for their Scouting reports.
So by April 2005, I set up the Scouting network, went to other Clubs, showed them my database and told them that they should do something similar.
For the last 15 years, I have been acting as a Consultant to Clubs, Player Agencies, and various Football Federations on how to manage their Scouting data. I have been closely working with many top Clubs of the World (mostly in Europe) on how to put into place their Scouting departments – both domestic and International.

What brought you to India?
I have known Steve (National Coach Stephen Constantine) for many years. There’s immense potential in the Country. I believe a lot can be done to bridge the gap in regards to the recruitment of Players and talent identification from the Youth to the Senior level.
Therefore the Workshop was designed to help and support the people who attended. I used my experience and knowledge and hopefully it will make them better.

Did you have any previous knowledge about Indian Football?
When Steve (Stephen Constantine) decided upon his second stint in India, to me it was one of those Countries that made you feel as to why India are 175 (India were 175 in FIFA Rankings at that time, i.e., when Stephen Constantine took up the job), especially after they have such a huge population.
There is significant amount of money in the game as have been seen in the recent auctions of the Hero Indian Super League. Adhering to Steve’s request (Stephen Constantine), we decided to combine our friendship to put in place a Scouting network throughout India. Mind you, this is not just for Seniors but also about talent identification at the youth level.
If you compare India to Europe, you will find a lot many cultural differences but a Player in a small town in Scotland is same as it is in India. It’s also about putting in working parts in one place and ensuring the Player an opportunity of being watched. The Player needs to be watched with an analytical eye and having a root of progression to fulfill his dream of playing for the National Team.

In the present context of Indian Football how much of this you believe will help?
The harsh reality stays that this sort of Project will not see immediate results. It has to be given time and people within the Organisation need to be patient before one sees the results coming. Very often, there are temptations or other versions to scrap such Projects if results don’t come in the first two years.
When a 14 year old gets into the system it may take him 5 years before he gets maybe, to the National Team. The authorities need to stay confident, patient and loyal and only then would you get the results. But there is no quick fix to this.

What exactly do you look at?
It’s not that the Participants came out as top Scouts at the end of the Workshop. I imparted my experience and knowledge as to how I started and gave them to analyse situations.
The Scouts needed to watch games at different levels and as part of the post Workshop management they need to write reports to which we will be given feedback. Unless one gets a feedback, there would be no up gradation and same mistakes are to be repeated.
The Workshop was about getting people to go to the games and analyse games in a way that you fulfill the template which is required and then feed in the information back in a way that it doesn’t get lost.
When that is correctly reported into single platform, the AIFF gets a live database of the best young talent and has a realistic idea of the potential talent available all throughout the Country.

‘Scouting is anyone’s job.’ Is that a myth or the truth?
(Derek points to the wallpaper on my desktop and smiles)
Your nine-year old daughter can go to a Football match and come back saying about a certain Player whom she liked. Can we refer to her as being a Scout? Well, everybody can have their opinion and they will.

So what defines a Scout?
You need to have a good understanding of the mechanics of the game. Some of the best Scouts at Clubs playing in Champions League may have never played at the highest level. But they have played to a certain level and have the ability to observe, understand, analyse and put it into a report.
Gone are the age-old days when you picked up the phone and said ‘Hey, this guy is not bad.’ But this is the 21st Century and after putting all your reports into a database, you need to give them recommendations and ring bells.
Thereafter, the decision making group at AIFF will go and have a look at the particular Player. The entire idea is to implement a policy where a potential talent does not get missed. It is very difficult in India where there are 1.2 billion people. But that’s where the scouting network comes into place.

What does a Scout need to look at?
Never get influenced by one incident. A Goalkeeper may have intercepted 20 crosses in a match perfectly but may have slipped on the last one which may in turn have affected the result of the match. A Scout is never expected to get carried away by the slip-up and focus on the entire 90 minutes plus added time. Never get influenced by highlights. A Player may execute some great saves, score a great goal – but that’s only the highlight.
A Scout always needs to work from behind the scenes as it’s never a glamorous job. You are not going there to entertain yourselves, rather you are going there to service a Coach and Football in general.

(Interview & Photo courtesy AIFF Media)