Past, present, future - Kieran Scott on how Norwich City led the recruitment way
- Credit: Tony Thrussell
Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey speaks to head of recruitment Kieran Scott about some – but not all – of the secrets behind the Canaries’ transfer strategy
There has been a lot of admire about Norwich City over the last two years - and at the very top of the list are the people that have pulled on the shirt.
It wasn't supposed to work, of course. No experience of the Championship. No obvious value given the fees paid out. Not to mention the fact no one in England had heard of them.
How on earth was it ever going to keep the Canaries ticking over in the second tier, never mind pushing them towards a hint of Premier League football?
Those are the questions the rest of the Championship now plans to answer, given Norwich City's stunning success story.
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"If I could box it I could probably sell it," smiled Kieran Scott - the Canaries' head of recruitment. "It's just hard work, having the right people knowing exactly what they are looking for, and then having the right people above me that backed what we did.
"I'm never going to go away from saying it's just hard work. We've watched thousands of games of football, been to thousands of games, travelled to many countries and we've reaped the rewards of that."
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Perhaps those are the easy bits to reveal - the rest was not about to enter the public domain. After all, respect and admiration for City's project is one thing. Allowing people an easy insight into copying the finer points is quite another.
"Listen, like all clubs we probably do a couple of little things that might be a bit different - and I'd like to keep them in house for now. I don't want to be at my next Leonesa game sat next to four or five different clubs that weren't there last time."
In reality, simply attempting to copy what Norwich have done in terms of their recruitment would be flawed - and in the very least underestimate how bringing players in has filtered into a much wider picture of leadership and coaching.
"We've had a lot of credit as a recruitment department, but Stuart Webber (sporting director) had to back the players that I brought to the table," said Scott. "They weren't the easiest players to back.
"Even if you look at Emi Buendia, you see the end product now of a fantastic player but when we were watching him at Leonesa he was a little bit overweight, 5'7, had a little bit of a temper - that's his edge and that's what makes him such an exciting player, for me - but there were a million reasons to say no.
"Stuart backed me and the guys on it and then Daniel (Farke) has been brave enough to play him. Again, there were plenty of reasons not to play him: he had a little stop-start at the start of the season, he had an injury so he didn't quite get the pre-season he wanted. But Daniel still backed him and played him.
"All three cogs had to work for that one to be a success.
"Stuart will deep down always be a scout. Knowing him well, he loves football and watching matches and I don't know if I want to say it for him to hear, but he obviously has a very good eye.
"It's actually good to have him in the department in that sense, because he gets it. When you bring an Emi Buendia to the table, he straight away understands it - whereas I've worked for other people maybe who just wouldn't have seen that and the deal wouldn't have happened.
"Having someone who understands recruitment and scouting, it did happen - which I'm thankful for."
That was then, of course. Norwich City have a different challenge ahead of them next season - one they plan to take on a little differently, much like they did with the Championship.
"The league is full of the best athletes, the best technical players, their mentalities are probably strong with that as well - you are going into an elite league that's well known across the world for having the best players in it," said Scott.
"So the step up will be big but I'm confident we have the players. We know how we play. Sometimes it may come unstuck but we're never going to turn our backs on how we play and what we do. So I don't fear it. I'm looking forward to pitting our brains against them if I'm honest with you.
"It's easier to get players in for the Championship than the Premier League because to convince players to come here that will be good enough to move us on to the next level: one, that takes a lot of finances and two, you're asking a player to maybe turn his back on a club in say Spain that's playing in the Europa League or Champions League potentially. So it's a tough market to find players in."
Scott's job isn't just about preparing for the Premier League - but safeguarding the club for any scenario or division, and including player sales. That is one plan Scott hopes he doesn't have to act on this summer.
And Scott offered a big nod of his head at the suggestion City's fan base - from 5,000 fans at Wigan to flags and banners inside a consistently sold-out Carrow Road - helps persuade a transfer target to sign on the dotted line.
Factoring in the added expectations of Premier League football returning to the club can always muddy the water for supporters. To a degree, it's the same inside the club.
"It's a tough question to answer because I don't go into any season wanting to be 17th," said Scott. "Everyone at the club has more ambition to be higher than that. But I think if you started the season and someone handed 17th to you, you'd take it.
"You've seen what's happened this season. Fulham sent a lot of money and went straight back down. It's a very tough challenge.
"We've just got to go in and be what we are. Our identity is strong, we play how we play, and our players have got to step up.
"We all want to be there: fans, staff, players. Everyone. There just needs to be a bit of reality that when we are there, it's going to be exceptionally tough. There will be some really difficult games - I've seen even top teams get whacked this season by other clubs.
"We've just got to stick with it, stick to what we've done this season and hopefully it carries us into the next one and we get a bit of momentum."
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