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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

    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.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    A nice book for football lovers, the author does a nice job of interviewing and spending time with a variety of scouts around the UK football circuit. Some nice background and insight to the start of data analytics in the beautiful game also which I found interesting. Recommended for football fans.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 5 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.

  7. 4 out of 5

    John Costello

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

  8. 5 out of 5

    Blake

    The Nowhere Men by Michael Calvin is a deep dive into the world of football scouting. Calvin casts a sincere eye on to that slowly contracting world wherein the attrition is high and the payoffs are rare. Calvin’s polished and insightful writing takes us right smack-bang into the world of the beleaguered scout, who is increasingly becoming marginalised in the modern game. The highlights of The Nowhere Men are certainly the conversations Calvin has with the scouts who have ‘put the miles in’ over The Nowhere Men by Michael Calvin is a deep dive into the world of football scouting. Calvin casts a sincere eye on to that slowly contracting world wherein the attrition is high and the payoffs are rare. Calvin’s polished and insightful writing takes us right smack-bang into the world of the beleaguered scout, who is increasingly becoming marginalised in the modern game. The highlights of The Nowhere Men are certainly the conversations Calvin has with the scouts who have ‘put the miles in’ over decades in the business. Mel Johnson, Steve Jones, and especially John Griffin are warmly given the soapbox to give their take on their trade and reminisce on old glories. Of particular note is the conversation between Barry Lloyd, Allan Gemmell, and Pat Holland (the transcript of which is an entire chapter); Steve Jones’ scouting report on a Colchester side; and John Griffin’s catharsis at the end. These men are in their twilight, fighting against the technology that will eventually supplant them. Their stories alone could justify a spin-off series. The final third of the book gets a bit ragged as Calvin spreads himself too thin and loses focus. The usual references to sabermetrics and Moneyball feature here, as well as the pervasive influence of statistics and video scouting. There are tenuous asides to American sport, too. Clearly the focus of the book is on the ‘nowhere men’ and their struggle to stay in the game. In this section, Calvin neither does justice to the scouts, nor the complex world of sabermetrics in sport. There is no doubt about Calvin’s writing—it is refined, street-smart, and eminently readable. There are some memorable flourishes that may draw a smile or ire from the reader, some examples being: “You can’t create a love letter out of numbers, or express beauty in an algorithm. There’s no sensuality in a sine curve, or warmth in a heat map. The neuron boogie, which causes tiny hairs to elevate on the back of a scout’s neck, is a timeless tune.” (pg. 371) “You will be able to spot the football scouts, if you reach the celestial gates. To merge Hollywood images, they will be the angels with dirty faces” (pg. 270) The Nowhere Men was first published in 2013, and the references to then-tyros and youth-level starlets have naturally dated. Raheem Sterling, John Swift, Jeremie Boga, and Brandon Ormonde-Ottewill have all had varied levels of success, yet readers will undoubtedly enjoy the anecdotes and predictions laid down by the scouts about the above players and others. The Nowhere Men is sprinkled liberally with these little gems. Modern football is an unforgiving shouting match wherein the little voices are drowned out. However, upon reading The Nowhere Men, the reader may come to realise that within the din lies the roar of the ‘mileage men’ as they rage against the dying of their profession. It is important to listen to that roar. HIGHLIGHTED PASSAGE “Whether it is watching a park game on a Sunday morning, or Bromley, or Dartford, or Manchester United or Liverpool, you’ve got to be there. You’ve got to put the miles in. You’ve got to be there, because if you ain’t wearing those tyres out, you ain’t going to find that one.” (pg. 147) (Allan Gemmell) “The Nowhere Men were an increasingly endangered species, but no one had found the magic bullet, the ultimate statistic which proved, beyond doubt, a player’s worth from a spread sheet rather than a stream of consciousness, scrawled on the back of an envelope by a scout who felt football in his bones.” (pg. 172) STARS: 4/5 FULL TIME SCORE: 3-1 winners. The scout—who brought two of the game’s debutants to the club—is halfway across the country watching another game.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Aparajita Raychaudhury

    I wish I liked this book more! The subject was definitely interesting - the making of a footballer has always intrigued me, and scouts play a very important role there. It is a topic that is rarely discussed - so I was really looking forward to reading this. And I loved the first few chapters - it was especially interesting to see how many of the players scouts identified as having "huge potential" in 2012 had actually lived up to it (Spoiler alert - very few! Which made me think about just how I wish I liked this book more! The subject was definitely interesting - the making of a footballer has always intrigued me, and scouts play a very important role there. It is a topic that is rarely discussed - so I was really looking forward to reading this. And I loved the first few chapters - it was especially interesting to see how many of the players scouts identified as having "huge potential" in 2012 had actually lived up to it (Spoiler alert - very few! Which made me think about just how rare an achievement it is to play regularly in the Premier League, and helped me understand why so many of my favorite young players say they are playing for all those who were with them in their academy years, but didn't make it. That was the only 'profound moment' I had with this book, which probably says more about me than about the book). It was clear the author was genuinely empathetic with the scouts' woes, and the sheer novelty of this shadowy breed coming to light kept me hooked. For the first few chapters at least. And then the short comings of the book hit me like a freight train. Each chapter was a collection of anecdotes from a different person, with little insight into the scouts' thought process (the modus operandi seems to be, we are looking at everything, and you just know if you know) and even lesser character building. A couple of days after finally finishing this book, I can't remember a single man whose story made the book. They remained the nowhere men. And after the fourth or fifth chapter, the material starts feeling extremely repetitive - the rush of finding a player with great potential, the pitiful job security of an average scout, "big bad technology" encroaching on the scouts business, yadda yadda yadda. By this point I didn't even care that much. I kept reading (on and off) because I think the topic deserves attention (and also because as a technocrat I might have taken some perverse pleasure in how many of the 'sure shot stars' the scouts identified didn't really pan out). But I probably should have given up. In short, read it if you're looking to nerd out on the intricacies of English youth football. If not? Read something else. Read for the challenge prompts - PopSugar Reading Challenge - Your favorite prompt from a past PopSugar Reading Challenge (A book revolving around a sport - the prompt helped me realize I actually love memoirs and sports books, two genres I avoided fot very long!) Around the Year in 52 Books - A book that was nominated for or won an award in a genre you enjoy (I have recently discovered I really enjoy football books 🤷)

  10. 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Boyle

    By sheer coincidence I finished ‘The Unknown Story of Football’s True Talent Spotters’ on the day the latest transfer window closed. This excellent book goes behind all the ridiculous hype and frenzy from Sky Sports and gives a voice to the football scouts who would’ve been mainly responsible for bringing the players involved in the transfers to the attention of the clubs. The author very generously allows these people to tell their stories and share their experiences, many of them now only rece By sheer coincidence I finished ‘The Unknown Story of Football’s True Talent Spotters’ on the day the latest transfer window closed. This excellent book goes behind all the ridiculous hype and frenzy from Sky Sports and gives a voice to the football scouts who would’ve been mainly responsible for bringing the players involved in the transfers to the attention of the clubs. The author very generously allows these people to tell their stories and share their experiences, many of them now only receiving petrol money (‘the forty-pence milers) as payment from the clubs. With football in danger of being completely swamped by Moneyball inspired analytical technology the book is an eloquent and thoughtful reminder that nothing will ever effectively take the place of a talent scout with a trained eye watching games and making judgements and recommendations on players.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rishi Sahgal

    A good insight into the life of British scouts and the evolution of scouting on the island. The book can be meandering at times, and suffers a little from a lack of editing. I thijo Calvin wanted to include a lot of personal stories about people who are often unacknowledged and forgotten, which is admirable, but detracts a little from the flow and readability of the book. It would have been interesting to see a contrast between scouting in the UK VS other top European and South American leagues, A good insight into the life of British scouts and the evolution of scouting on the island. The book can be meandering at times, and suffers a little from a lack of editing. I thijo Calvin wanted to include a lot of personal stories about people who are often unacknowledged and forgotten, which is admirable, but detracts a little from the flow and readability of the book. It would have been interesting to see a contrast between scouting in the UK VS other top European and South American leagues, but I can understand that the research and resources involved in doing that might be challenging.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michael Cook

    Even though it's a couple of years old I loved this book though it left me with 2 main feelings : 1) pity for these and other men and women trying to cling onto relevance in football when football takes so much more than it gives to everyone but the elite; 2) disgust at both the 'big clubs' for rigging youth player development in their favour at the expense of smaller clubs and the players but also to the supporters big clubs who with their blind allegiance enable such predatory behaviour - as sho Even though it's a couple of years old I loved this book though it left me with 2 main feelings : 1) pity for these and other men and women trying to cling onto relevance in football when football takes so much more than it gives to everyone but the elite; 2) disgust at both the 'big clubs' for rigging youth player development in their favour at the expense of smaller clubs and the players but also to the supporters big clubs who with their blind allegiance enable such predatory behaviour - as shown in this book EP3

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rob Sedgwick

    Scouting the scouts This is a fascinating insight into the scouting process that goes on in football. It's not an exact science, more of an art which is in the process of being made more algorithmic. At the heart of the story lies the battle between the traditionalists and the statisticians. Scouting the scouts This is a fascinating insight into the scouting process that goes on in football. It's not an exact science, more of an art which is in the process of being made more algorithmic. At the heart of the story lies the battle between the traditionalists and the statisticians.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    Very good insight into the hidden part of the world of football made interesting by the human stories of the scouts. Really shows the fickle and ephemeral nature of the football "industry". Only slight downside (it's very minor) is there's an awful lot of names of those involved to remember and track which I'm not great at. Very good insight into the hidden part of the world of football made interesting by the human stories of the scouts. Really shows the fickle and ephemeral nature of the football "industry". Only slight downside (it's very minor) is there's an awful lot of names of those involved to remember and track which I'm not great at.

  18. 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. 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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elliot Lewis

    Crap. A boring read about privileged people in an industry people would die to work in, moaning about nothing in particular. The book's structure is so bad, jumps all over the place, no flow, very repetitive. Skip. I wish I did. Crap. A boring read about privileged people in an industry people would die to work in, moaning about nothing in particular. The book's structure is so bad, jumps all over the place, no flow, very repetitive. Skip. I wish I did.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Farrell

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

  21. 5 out of 5

    lluke

    reads like an unfunny uninteresting hunter s thompson book, an unstructured collection of anecdotes, quite frustrating to read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Too episodic, too many characters to make it a really good read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    3.5 really. An interesting look at scouting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul Mullan

    A bit of a ramble about football scouts focusing more on how poorly paid and quirky they are than what they're doing or really looking for. A bit of a ramble about football scouts focusing more on how poorly paid and quirky they are than what they're doing or really looking for.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonny Brick

    In a world of data and Wyscout, a human eye is still essential to unearthing diamonds. The best (and only) book on football scouts, who should be put on the National Treasures list.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Neyland

    no clear story, too many characters, disappointed.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matt Gale

    Good insight into a world that actually isn't at all as glamorous as you'd think. A little repetitive at times but a solid read Good insight into a world that actually isn't at all as glamorous as you'd think. A little repetitive at times but a solid read

  28. 5 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 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

  29. 4 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.

  30. 4 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.

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