Discover more from SCOUTED Notebook
Closing in on a major goal: The Technical Area, September 2023
This month at SCOUTED, we dropped some cool stuff.
September was a really exciting month for us.
For years we worked in cycles on massive projects that consumed all of our time: releasing a print Handbook each quarter, without the support of a publisher or financial backing, meant the lives of our small team existed in three-month bubbles. Plan, write, edit, release. Take a breath.
Celebrating the end of a massive project just feels good, and I think we all missed it. Football media today is about speed more than anything else: the content machine chews up and spits out everything you do in seconds, regardless of how hard you worked on it. We wanted to build a model that rejected the endless churn of attention and allowed us to deliver great journalism that was meant to be read with a coffee in hand, not skipped by in a blur on Twitter.
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During that breath, we get to welcome a host of new subscribers who signed up to read SCOUTED50. Hey! Welcome. We’re so grateful you’re here. This platform exists and survives entirely on your subscription fee. Your willingness to pay for our journalism means we don’t have to clickbait or plaster everything in ads.
It also pays for us to do things like Modern Renaissance. This summer, just after the launch of Notebook, our Joe Donnohue was invited to fly out to Belgium and meet the team behind Royale Union Saint-Gilloise. We could pay for the trip because our readers - you lot - pay us. It’s that simple.
I’m so proud of the story Joe ended up telling: it’s a remarkable tale of revival built on modern ideals. If you’re a SCOUTED subscriber you’re undoubtedly a fan of finding diamonds in the rough, and USG have shot to European prominence by doing exactly that. Please grab a drink and settle in to read it if you haven’t. This kind of storytelling is why we’re here.
Before (or after) you do that, I’ve pulled Joe away from Leeds United to fill you in on the trip - you did pay for his flights, after all.
When I started out in journalism, I was told the profession would open doors, allow me to travel the world and meet all kinds of people. There are elements to this which are true, but almost a decade on, opportunities to go abroad ‘for work’ have been few and far between. So, naturally, when the opportunity did arise, after much to-ing and fro-ing, arranging dates and times that would suit all parties, it would of course happen at short notice - and as luck would have it, 24 hours after a long weekend with good friends in Germany.
I want to say it wasn’t ‘Brits abroad’, but that dear reader, would be a lie. There are plenty of other football media outlets that will gladly peddle you such things.
The final scene in Guy Ritchie’s ‘Snatch’ (2000) is a quick-cut montage which sees Dennis Farina shot what can only be described as a strong drink, board a Concorde flight and land with a screech.
That’s what it felt like. Köln Bonn, Manchester, Brussels South (which is actually Charleroi - and nowhere near Brussels).
I’m not unfamiliar with solo trips - I spent one birthday in Bologna, taking in the Under-21 Euros, sharing cups of water with a Romanian stranger in 40-degree heat with my shirt wrapped around my head.
But a solo trip on a stinking hangover, through three different airports in the space of 12 hours before conducting the most in-depth interview of my career for a publication I love - that’s a different story altogether.
Brussels - or Saint-Gilles, to be precise - was gorgeous, as it turned out. I checked into my Airbnb, perused TripAdvisor’s cheap eats and headed out for a settler. They do schooners in Belgium, not pints. Thank God.
The trip was tinged with disappointment, as those who’ve read the piece (thank you) will know: USG lost out on the title days earlier. I knew I’d need to reframe the interview - I had so much to ask but wondered whether they’d be keen to discuss a wound so fresh.
The way it transpired, let’s just say I could get used to SCOUTED, abroad.
Back to the grind
SCOUTED50 brought in a load of new people, and we’re finally nearing our short-term goal of 500 subscribers. This feels great after a long plateau. As a reminder, once we hit the big 500, we’ll be increasing compensation for the freelance writers who work for us. We currently pay £100; in a few weeks, we’ll hopefully raise that to £150.
It’s really important to us that we’re bringing people in for the long term, and not just for a quick one-time fee. We want to build a community of readers, not a list of customers. That’s not to say we’re a charity; to keep everyone here we have to convince you we’re worth the money.
To that end, I wanted to take some time to detail our plans for the coming months.
Most weeks, we’ll publish 2-3 of the following features:
Opinion Column: Our incredible freelancers introduce you to the big ideas, smart analyses and undiscovered players they’re thinking about. We’ll continue to deliver great, curated stories from experts, and pay them as fairly as we can: like this from MoeSquared.
SCOUTED Digest: A new column we’re yet to debut, Digest will be a round-up of all the things our scouts found interesting that week. It’ll include standout performances, under-reported stories and all the weird and wonderful thoughts that inhabit Llew and Steve’s minds as they watch football. We want this to be the best, most digestible way to keep up with the next generation without watching dozens of games yourself.
Scout’s Notes: Raw, uncut scribblings straight from the diaries of Llew and Steve, Notes is a look inside our process. It’s perfect for bitesize takeaways and improving your own understanding of how to scout young talent. Here’s our first shot at it.
SCOUTED50 - the profiles return: The Handbooks built a reputation as the best place to discover the next generation because no print publication offered such analytical detail and married it to contextual storytelling. We’re bringing that back. We said we want SCOUTED50 to grow throughout the year, and this is how: by profiling every player on the list, one week at a time. The profiles will be new and improved, and each will be a building block in the most detailed guide to youth football on the internet.
Every month, we’ll write the following columns as and when they’re relevant:
Youth Tournament Coverage: As far as we know, no other outlet is covering youth football as anything more than an afterthought. We’re currently covering the UEFA Youth League with the same detail we afforded this summer’s international tournaments.
The Technical Area: This long, rambling thing you’re reading right now. I’ll do my best to lift the curtain on what’s happening here, at SCOUTED HQ. (We don’t have an office. HQ is wherever I can plug my laptop in that day. Ask your friends to subscribe so we can get an office.)
Editor’s Take: We have things to say about football too, you know. Every time I so much of think about sharing my football opinions with the masses I break down into sweaty tears, but Stephen is much braver and recently wrote this superb story on Lamine Yamal - that’s the kind of stuff you can expect here. Only much stupider, if I’m the byline.
Every quarter (at least but maybe more regularly, depending on… stuff) we’ll release the following:
SCOUTED50 - Updates: We’ll periodically reflect on how the season’s shaping up for our chosen 50. We’ll chat about who’s performing and who’s not, as well as fill you in on all the pieces we’ve added to the list since the last update.
Long-form stories: My favourite thing in the world is brilliant journalism that requires a coffee to read, then a second to re-read and soak in all its detail. We just published Modern Renaissance. Expect much more to come.
I hope there’s something here - or better yet, many things - that you’ll enjoy enough to sling us £5 each month. We know subscriptions to your favourite writers and media outlets are starting to add up - we feel it too.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for choosing us. We’re only what we’ve always been: a handful of friends with a dream.
See you next month,