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The Nowhere Men

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Winner of The Times British Sports Book Award 2014. A fascinating insight into the enclosed world of football scouts in the UK A teenaged boy plays football in a suburban park. His name is Raheem Sterling. The call is made: “Get down here quick. This is something special”. Another boy is 8, going on 28. His name is Jack Wilshere. The referee, an Arsenal scout, spirits him awa Winner of The Times British Sports Book Award 2014. A fascinating insight into the enclosed world of football scouts in the UK A teenaged boy plays football in a suburban park. His name is Raheem Sterling. The call is made: “Get down here quick. This is something special”. Another boy is 8, going on 28. His name is Jack Wilshere. The referee, an Arsenal scout, spirits him away from Luton Town. A young goalkeeper struggles on loan at Cheltenham Town in League Two. His name is Jack Butland. Within months he will be playing for England. Welcome to football’s hidden tribe. Scouts are everywhere yet nowhere, faceless and nameless, despite making the informed decisions worth millions. Award-winning sportswriter Michael Calvin opens up their hidden world, examining their disconnected lifestyles, petty betrayals and unconsidered professionalism of men who spend long, lonely hours on the road.


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Winner of The Times British Sports Book Award 2014. A fascinating insight into the enclosed world of football scouts in the UK A teenaged boy plays football in a suburban park. His name is Raheem Sterling. The call is made: “Get down here quick. This is something special”. Another boy is 8, going on 28. His name is Jack Wilshere. The referee, an Arsenal scout, spirits him awa Winner of The Times British Sports Book Award 2014. A fascinating insight into the enclosed world of football scouts in the UK A teenaged boy plays football in a suburban park. His name is Raheem Sterling. The call is made: “Get down here quick. This is something special”. Another boy is 8, going on 28. His name is Jack Wilshere. The referee, an Arsenal scout, spirits him away from Luton Town. A young goalkeeper struggles on loan at Cheltenham Town in League Two. His name is Jack Butland. Within months he will be playing for England. Welcome to football’s hidden tribe. Scouts are everywhere yet nowhere, faceless and nameless, despite making the informed decisions worth millions. Award-winning sportswriter Michael Calvin opens up their hidden world, examining their disconnected lifestyles, petty betrayals and unconsidered professionalism of men who spend long, lonely hours on the road.

30 review for The Nowhere Men

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mahlon

    In Nowhere Men, Michael Calvin takes a look at some of the most undervalued and overworked professionals in all of football-- The scouts. The author examines scouting at all levels and illuminates the different problems faced by clubs at each. He also examines the way technology has and will continue to affect the future of scouting, and chronicles the way in which the older generation of scout is adapting – or not. Calvin's usual thoroughness is on display here. My only criticism would be that b In Nowhere Men, Michael Calvin takes a look at some of the most undervalued and overworked professionals in all of football-- The scouts. The author examines scouting at all levels and illuminates the different problems faced by clubs at each. He also examines the way technology has and will continue to affect the future of scouting, and chronicles the way in which the older generation of scout is adapting – or not. Calvin's usual thoroughness is on display here. My only criticism would be that because he tried to cover so much territory and so many issues, the book felt a little more disjointed then his others. Still a must read for anyone interested in the past or future of football.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tom

    Really good piece of reporting into Britain's football scouts. Atmospheric, honest and lets the characters loose to tell their many stories in their own words. One memorable chapter's just a transcript of three of the senior members of the scouting fraternity in a roundtable-with-tea-and-biscuits discussion, and there's some fascinating discussion of the reception Moneyball-style profiling has received from English football, and what it's achieved so far... A fair bit of football knowledge is ass Really good piece of reporting into Britain's football scouts. Atmospheric, honest and lets the characters loose to tell their many stories in their own words. One memorable chapter's just a transcript of three of the senior members of the scouting fraternity in a roundtable-with-tea-and-biscuits discussion, and there's some fascinating discussion of the reception Moneyball-style profiling has received from English football, and what it's achieved so far... A fair bit of football knowledge is assumed from the reader - stadium names, team nicknames and history and so on - but it's a rewarding read featuring many familiar names and faces from the recent and more distant past. The only letdown for me was some gushing, flowery recollections by the author about "his" club, which seemed out of place in this book. Read it while it's still current - several up-and-coming Premier League and England stars feature, with some fabulous insights into their background and character.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ragnar Liaskar

    More than two years since I read this, but had to come back for a short review as I am shocked to see how poorly rated it is on this site compared to in the football world and media in Europe. It won The Times British Sports Book Award 2014, and several other prizes. It was very much appreciated by older and younger scouts and sport directors I know from many of the levels in this game from the top European leagues to local 3rd and 4th level leagues in Norway. Don't be put off by some of these bad More than two years since I read this, but had to come back for a short review as I am shocked to see how poorly rated it is on this site compared to in the football world and media in Europe. It won The Times British Sports Book Award 2014, and several other prizes. It was very much appreciated by older and younger scouts and sport directors I know from many of the levels in this game from the top European leagues to local 3rd and 4th level leagues in Norway. Don't be put off by some of these bad reviews. It is one of the best books on the football industry that has been published the last 20 years.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Good footballing journalism in telling us just who scouts are and what they do. A chance to look forwards and glance backwards at the same time. Quietly fascinating. I reckon that good scouts, like good sports journalists will see out the IT revolution.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Costello

    A really well written and interesting look at a part of football I knew nothing about

  6. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    Dull and meandering with no defined story throughout. Just wanders from one scenario to another, bombarding the reader with insipid anecdotes from a constantly changing cast. A real disappointment.

  7. 5 out of 5

    James

    This was in many ways a rarity in football books, an in-depth study of an area that is rarely featured in the press, but still a vital part of the game. This is more than just a collection of conversations with those on the periphery of football; scouts at Liverpool to League 2 are covered, as well as an insightful interview with the Brentford owner. There are two strands to the book, a look at the individual characters and a wider discussion of the changing nature of scouts to the more modern an This was in many ways a rarity in football books, an in-depth study of an area that is rarely featured in the press, but still a vital part of the game. This is more than just a collection of conversations with those on the periphery of football; scouts at Liverpool to League 2 are covered, as well as an insightful interview with the Brentford owner. There are two strands to the book, a look at the individual characters and a wider discussion of the changing nature of scouts to the more modern analysts. This is far from a fawning work, but Calvin is clearly favourable towards the scouts, and late on he admits this is in part due to similarities with his own profession. This adds a warmth to the characters described, and reading this a few years after publication, the youth prospects are generally better known, which made it more interesting for me (but also more surprising that the later edition mentions little-known upstart Raheem 'Stirling' on the back cover). In contrast to Calvin's later book on managers, this has more of Calvin's personal input, which allows him to question some of the interviewees a bit more, as well as offering another viewpoint to the scouting fraternity. He also varies the chapter styles, some featuring matches exclusively, and one which was just a dialogue between three scouts. The format was clever too. Initially, there was a description of what a scout actually does, but later chapters put this in the perspective of a changing game, one which saw performance analysts replacing 'the flat caps'. Although some more modern voices still paid lip service towards the men who watch games live, multiple interviewees gave the impression that data is so extensive that the traditional concept of a scout is close to obsolete, at least in terms of discovering a player. But even the strongest advocates of data acknowledge its flaws; the exception in this book is Damien Comolli. The message from this book was ultimately a sad one, however. It's clear that most scouts are paid very little, and are really doing it as a hobby with like-minded souls, clinging on desperately to still be part of football. As a result, they are seen as disposable by managers and clubs, and subject to the whims of a particular manager rather than being treated as long-term employees. Though many bristled at the idea they were going to games as spectators, it was obvious they still wanted to be part of the matchday.

  8. 4 out of 5

    luke dennison

    Fascinating Michael Calvin has written a superbly researched, warts and all, sympathetic book about scouting in football. He also covers how this involving using technology and the concept of moneyball. If you want to read this book to read about big stars and how they were scouted, it think football starts and ends with the big 6 premier league clubs don't bother. This is a human story of passion, obsession and love of the beautiful game, it's about scouring the lower league's, the youth matches Fascinating Michael Calvin has written a superbly researched, warts and all, sympathetic book about scouting in football. He also covers how this involving using technology and the concept of moneyball. If you want to read this book to read about big stars and how they were scouted, it think football starts and ends with the big 6 premier league clubs don't bother. This is a human story of passion, obsession and love of the beautiful game, it's about scouring the lower league's, the youth matches, getting paid in mileage and not caring about the lack of money. My only small criticism is that occasionally the stories from different scouts are similar to one another but that's not the authors fault and just goes to prove the authenticity of the research. A great read.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jertz

    This book was highly rated by others and I could see why after the first few chapters. The author brings across a detailed account of the sometimes harsh and underpaid lives of football scouts so that you began to feel sad about their lives away from home and on the motorways. What let the book down for me was that it reverted back to the same characters and teams rather than spread the net wider to get a better view of the lives at different levels of the game. Definitely worth a read but was glad This book was highly rated by others and I could see why after the first few chapters. The author brings across a detailed account of the sometimes harsh and underpaid lives of football scouts so that you began to feel sad about their lives away from home and on the motorways. What let the book down for me was that it reverted back to the same characters and teams rather than spread the net wider to get a better view of the lives at different levels of the game. Definitely worth a read but was glad when the end came.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sandy Morley

    Michael Calvin meanders slightly, and it's not always easy to keep track of whose sage advice he's paraphrasing at any one point, but this is an interesting insight into a side of the beautiful game that's as much a mystery to the average fan as anything.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Farrell

    Fascinating insight into the world of the soccer scout across all the English leagues

  12. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Andrus

    What a truly Brilliant in sight into footballs unsung hero's the scouts who put the beautiful game before family and in some cases about are are only paid 40p mile in pursuit of footballs next golden boy. Nowhere men is a well written account by Michael Calvin of the trials and tribulations these man go through. These men are the real talent spotters of English football

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Mike Calvin has provided a fascinating insight into the game that many of us love through the eyes of the scouts who travel mile upon endless mile for little more reward than the personal satisfaction of seeing an identified talent develop into a star. As I get older I become increasingly frustrated with football’s soul crushing infatuation with money and Calvin’s book manages to illuminate the deep love that The Nowhere Men feel for the game whilst exposing the inhuman way it treats them in ret Mike Calvin has provided a fascinating insight into the game that many of us love through the eyes of the scouts who travel mile upon endless mile for little more reward than the personal satisfaction of seeing an identified talent develop into a star. As I get older I become increasingly frustrated with football’s soul crushing infatuation with money and Calvin’s book manages to illuminate the deep love that The Nowhere Men feel for the game whilst exposing the inhuman way it treats them in return. Tor-Kristian Karlsen recently tweeted that the overwhelming factor in determining a professional football club’s success is their transfer spending and yet these men with their wealth of knowledge and expertise could barely be less valued. Calvin introduces us to some of their number, sharing their experience of both the highs and the lows of their roles and their thoughts on the talent and the clubs that covet it. We get the low down on up and coming youngsters such as Raheem Sterling, Jack Butland and Jamaal Lascelles and we follow the strategies and upheavals of clubs from Brentford to Liverpool. The insights will help to form your views on the game and possibly even change the way that you watch and appreciate it and the freshness of the anecdotes means that you can look up from the pages and see how those players are developing and where clubs have succeeded or failed in their different approaches. An enjoyable and educational read.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Zach Slaton

    Critical to understanding the game is how the talent is discovered. Much attention is paid to the analytics community today, with scouts being dismissed as unscientific and outdated. This book does a good bit to give us a glimpse into the world of the threatened profession of soccer scouting. Written based upon the author being embedded with various scouts over a season, the reader gets to see key events unfold, including the turmoil inside Liverpool as they transition through the end of Dalglis Critical to understanding the game is how the talent is discovered. Much attention is paid to the analytics community today, with scouts being dismissed as unscientific and outdated. This book does a good bit to give us a glimpse into the world of the threatened profession of soccer scouting. Written based upon the author being embedded with various scouts over a season, the reader gets to see key events unfold, including the turmoil inside Liverpool as they transition through the end of Dalglish and Comolli and into the Brendan Rodgers era. The book is full of a variety of interviews and accounts of the scout lifestyle that is equal parts nomadic and passionate. The author does well to cover the analytical elements of scouting, and the brighter commentaries uncovered in the book recognize the value in combining both traditional scouting with the data-driven world gleaned from video analysis. This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in understanding the unseen and little-paid world of the professionals entrusted with discovering the next Sterling, Wilshire, or Butland.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ian Scott

    Enjoyable if you are interested in British football. The book is a selection of interviews with men involved in scouting for (mainly) professional football clubs. The central theme drawn out is the ongoing change from old school scouts relying on their "football brains" versus the new Moneyball-style pseudo-science of statistical player analysis. The author clearly feels deep affection for the veterans and the weaknesses of relying on "laptop scouts" approach are hinted at if not actively highli Enjoyable if you are interested in British football. The book is a selection of interviews with men involved in scouting for (mainly) professional football clubs. The central theme drawn out is the ongoing change from old school scouts relying on their "football brains" versus the new Moneyball-style pseudo-science of statistical player analysis. The author clearly feels deep affection for the veterans and the weaknesses of relying on "laptop scouts" approach are hinted at if not actively highlighted. Additional themes are the disparity of wealth in football, the increasingly blurred lines between agents and scouts, the utter job insecurity and the amount of men who do a thankless and occasionally unpaid job "for the love of the game". The Premier League's new Academy structure is lambasted - what incentive have 17 year old millionaires got, after all - and there is a final feeling that no-one in football really knows anything, rather like William Golding's observations on Hollywood.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Meleg

    This book is about the world of sports scouting and how it is going out of business. At the beginning it gets off to a slow start but quickly picks up speed and different events that happened and techniques they use to scout the next superstars. A vast majority of the book was about how the game and dynamics of soccer are changing and how they are going to statistical analysis and getting rid of scouting. This book could be compared to Money Ball because of the statistical analysis. I would reco This book is about the world of sports scouting and how it is going out of business. At the beginning it gets off to a slow start but quickly picks up speed and different events that happened and techniques they use to scout the next superstars. A vast majority of the book was about how the game and dynamics of soccer are changing and how they are going to statistical analysis and getting rid of scouting. This book could be compared to Money Ball because of the statistical analysis. I would recommend this book for someone who is interested in sports and what goes on behind the scenes. I liked that the book threw in names of players that are well know so that the reader can understand there story better. I did not like that the book was slow to begin with. The book only included minimal details at the beginning.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Two stars, i.e. I "liked it", but I was keen to finish it and pick up something a little less heavy. Very well written, but for someone who was after a collection of stories and anecdotes from the scouts themselves, this was a mind scrambling insight into facts and figures, politics and personalities of the scouting world. If you enjoy reading the football stats in the sports section of the papers then this is for you. If, like me, you are the casual fan who enjoys hearing stories of how Raheem Two stars, i.e. I "liked it", but I was keen to finish it and pick up something a little less heavy. Very well written, but for someone who was after a collection of stories and anecdotes from the scouts themselves, this was a mind scrambling insight into facts and figures, politics and personalities of the scouting world. If you enjoy reading the football stats in the sports section of the papers then this is for you. If, like me, you are the casual fan who enjoys hearing stories of how Raheem Sterling was discovered playing on a park in the East End, then I don't think the all too brief anecdotes here will satisfy you.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard Bellis

    Really enjoyed the book, though I think it could have been slightly better organised. He was trying to paint it as a narrative when it was really a series of interviews and football matches. As a result he missed out on the opportunity to go really in depth with the topic, but does give a fascinating insight into the world of the football scout. It is perhaps a little bit bias towards the old school scout, and doesn't give much space for the new Sabermetric turn in football scouting (which I thi Really enjoyed the book, though I think it could have been slightly better organised. He was trying to paint it as a narrative when it was really a series of interviews and football matches. As a result he missed out on the opportunity to go really in depth with the topic, but does give a fascinating insight into the world of the football scout. It is perhaps a little bit bias towards the old school scout, and doesn't give much space for the new Sabermetric turn in football scouting (which I think a comprehensive book on scouting would have done). It is, however, a great read, with plenty of superb anecdotes and interesting observations from a huge variety of characters.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Coyne

    Wish I had half stars for this book: 3.5 for me. Fascinating insight into the lives and practices of the talent spotters who shape English football. However, the structure of the book is loose to the point of non-existent and many of the key points lose their impact with repetition. It's been very interesting to read - 3 years after publication - Wikipedia entries for some of the many footballers cited. Ive learnt a lot about my own club, Liverpool; not all favourable. Definitely worth a read if Wish I had half stars for this book: 3.5 for me. Fascinating insight into the lives and practices of the talent spotters who shape English football. However, the structure of the book is loose to the point of non-existent and many of the key points lose their impact with repetition. It's been very interesting to read - 3 years after publication - Wikipedia entries for some of the many footballers cited. Ive learnt a lot about my own club, Liverpool; not all favourable. Definitely worth a read if you have any interest in the game.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Martin Smith

    A superb insight into the murky world of football scouting. Calvin tackles the issues facing the profession head on, producing a fascinating window on the side of the Beautiful Game that is rarely seen. His extensive research has unearthed remarkable stories of hope, despair and redemption. It lacks cohesion at times, providing a slightly disjointed reading experience but overall, it's an intriguing look at a profession that is very often overlooked.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    An interesting insight into football and the world of scouts and how they operate. It reveals a complex system based on info, instinct, word of mouth, travel and planning. He talks to many scouts and tells of their precarious lives. The analysis data has changed the game, and some clubs have cut their scouts accordingly. Overall, this is a good read, one of a series by Calvin looking deep in to aspects of football.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Oren Cohen

    An exceptionally interesting look into the "insides" of the football scouting world in the UK. An anti-glamorous world that goes on behind the scenes of the beautiful game. If you've ever wanted to work in something related to sports and thought you could make a great scout, read this and ask yourself if you love it enough to really go through with it.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Really nice insight into the world of scouts. Great interviews. At times the "old school versus new school" narrative starts to feel a bit repetitive and forced. But all in all a different perspective and worth a read.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Prettejohn

    It was OK but each chapter was like an article from Four Four Two magazine. Basically it's the clash between the Google Generation and the Flat Cap and ferret generation in seeking out the next Paul Gascoigne or Gareth Bale. Good but not a great read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Siddharth

    Mandatory reading if you love the beautiful game. Scouts are the lifeblood of the game and are slowly going extinct only to be replaced by analytics and video technology. Makes for especially poignant reading in the last two chapters.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fiz

    The content was really good but non-native English speakers would struggle to "enjoy" the book. Words chosen/used were too complicated and complex for non-natives...

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    A review of this new book on the world of the football scout is here at the Two Unfortunates soccer blog.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jane Curtis

    Well-written and with some interesting insights into an unknown side of football.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marcus Oliver

    A good insight. But a very slow read didn't keep.me gripped at all. Hence why it took so long

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ger Byrne

    Outstanding. Highly recommended.

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