Paul Hurst's Black and White Scouting Army

Cod Almighty | Article

by Luke Pawley

6 January 2021

Journalist and Town fan Luke Pawley has researched scouting practices at GTFC and across football. Here he shares his insights and suggests that with a supportive board, Paul Hurst could develop a high-level scouting and recruitment department for the Mariners.  

As well as the fabled fitness and conditioning coach, a key reason for Paul Hurst's departure from Blundell Park in 2016 was that he was not given permission to sign an extra scout by John Fenty and the board. When it comes to player recruitment, Hurst is one of the most respected Football League managers among his peers and this time round, Grimsby Town must give him the resources he needs to build a strong scouting and recruitment department.

The returning manager already has a solid foundation at the club upon which to build in this area. Graham Rodger, already at the club as its Football in the Community Manager, was brought on board as chief scout by Russell Slade in July 2017 and retained by subsequent managers. The former defender made 147 league appearances for Town and had a good relationship with former manager Michael Jolley, although how he fared with Ian Holloway is uncertain.

In fact, it is a Holloway appointment that builds the second corner of this foundation. Former Millwall and Queens Park Rangers scout Graham Bird, understood to be highly respected among fellow scouts, joined Grimsby Town in November 2020.

Bird's LinkedIn profile lists his job title as Recruitment Manager, which he says is a contracted position. It is unclear if he departed alongside Holloway but it would be wise of the club to retain such an experienced scout if possible.

Some untapped recruiting talent at the football club lies, believe it or not, on the pitch. Newly-signed winger Filipe Morais is currently studying towards a Master’s degree in Sports Directorship at the University of Salford, which he started last year and is due to complete in 2022.

Since 2018, Morais has worked as a Football Consultant for Crawley Town. According to his LinkedIn profile, his responsibilities are to 'provide consultancy service for Crawley Town FC, liaise with Sporting Director Erdem Konyar' and 'provide advice on player recruits and player contractual negotiations'.

Alongside these key individuals, Chris Doig, Ben Davies and even youth team manager Neil Woods will be able to lend their scouting support to Hurst. Each of these individuals will have their own network of contacts. If the club can build on this in the ways discussed later in this article, Hurst will be able to rely on a huge network of formal and informal contacts to help the football club recruit.

With a firm foundation already established at the club, Hurst could look to build by re-hiring some trusted allies to scout for the football club.

The first of those could be Ged Searson, who was Town's chief scout from 2014-2015 and again from 2016-2017. He has also scouted for West Ham, Leyton Orient, Gillingham and Barnet.

In May 2020, Searson founded SQUAD+ Football Intel, a company providing detailed information and reports to football clubs to aid them in the transfer market. Whether Searson would be willing to give this up to work full time for one club is unclear. Either way, his experience and knowledge would be beneficial for Hurst to lean on.He's not asking for a League Two or League One player specifically, it's players with the right technical, physical and psychological ability.

Experienced scout John Psaras is a long-term friend of Hurst who met the Town boss during their respective spells in non-league coaching and scouted for Grimsby during Hurst's first spell in charge. Psaras is based in Telford and has experience of conducting both player and opposition reports. The former AFC Bridgnorth manager also followed Hurst to Shrewsbury Town, where he was part of a six-strong scouting team.

"He's not asking for a League Two or League One player specifically," Psaras told the Shropshire Star during the duo's time at Shrewsbury Town. "It's players with the right technical, physical and psychological ability.

"It's not just watching the games. I have my contacts and I speak with former players and managers of the targets. 'What was so and so like?' Seeing if he's got the right character and is not trouble."

Another friend of Hurst's who could return to the club is Steve Marsella, who had a brief spell as the club's goalkeeping coach during Hurst’s previous spell. He has worked as a scout for Hibernian, among other clubs, and has recently had spells coaching in non-league and abroad.

Upon Marsella's appointment as goalkeeping coach in 2014, Hurst said: "We are really pleased to get Steve on board. He has a lot of experience as a goalkeeping coach and as a scout. He has a very good knowledge of a lot of players."

While they are not allowed to officially be involved in a club's player recruitment process, Hurst has links to reputable agents that he will be able to lean on in the transfer market.

The first of those is Lee Philpott's LPM Football Agents, the agency who represent Hurst and list Alex Rodman, Nathan Pond, Elliott Whitehouse and Luke Waterfall among their clientele.

A second agency Hurst can rely on is Fifteen Eleven Sports Management, led by Jake Speight. Their current list of clientele includes Omar Bogle, Richard Tait, Shaun Pearson, James McKeown, Zak Mills and Ross Hannah.

Away from the familiar, there are several ways Hurst could develop his scouting and recruitment operation even further.

One big step would be to approach Boston United (legally we hope, not like last time) chief scout Richard Boryszczuk to join the team at Blundell Park. Boryszczuk's knowledge of the non-league and reserve team game is unparalleled and he, while Boston's recruitment has been widely praised, remains an unsung hero in the club's high-flying position in the National League North. The appointment of a talented, experienced scout based in Lincolnshire would be a sensible step for the Mariners to take.

Finally, the club would do well to take advantage of the services offered by the Professional Football Scouts Association (PFSA). Clubs can subscribe to their service and gain access to a pool of qualified scouts across the country, with the service tailored to each club's recruitment processes, needs and wants. Furthermore, the PFSA provide detailed scouting qualifications taught by experienced scouts. Grimsby Town could use this system to train the club's own generation of scouts, perhaps including retired players who have a strong affinity to the club and former youth team players who have dropped out of the professional game.

Many thanks to Luke for taking the time to share his knowledge and research on a area that is a bit of unknown for us at CA and many other Town fans. We'd love to hear your feedback or questions. Use the Feedback form or email