Football has undergone tremendous change over the years. There is so much emphasis on tactics and managerial changes these days. Nobody has patience anymore, a team in bad form cannot apparently turn their fortunes around unless they have a marquee signing in the subsequent transfer window or they sack their manager. This mentality is seen in the so called ‘big and small’ clubs alike as scouting potential talent and players from all over the world has become paramount to a club’s sustained success. Southampton are an excellent example in the Premier League who have a solid structure established within the club with an extensive scouting network.
Jamie Vardy, N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez were the bedrock on which Leicester laid their title winning credentials. Coming in from Fleetwood Town, Stade Malherbe Caen and Le Havre respectively, all these players were quite unknown to the footballing world before their metamorphic rise last season, with only Vardy being known to the English fans and Premier League followers prior to last season. The three of them were scouted and recommended by the same person-Steve Walsh.
Walsh was born in Chorley, Lancashire and worked as a physical education teacher at Bishop Rawtorne School in Lancashire. He worked as a scout in tandem to his teaching duties at Bury, Chester City and later Chelsea. It was at Chelsea where he unearthed two gems of players- Gianfranco Zola and Didier Drogba, utilising his knowledge of the French Ligue very well. He also played a key role in the signing of Michael Essien. He later became the Chief scout at Newcastle United in 2006 after leaving Chelsea. This was a particularly important event, especially in Leicester’s point of view as he met Nigel Pearson there at the club. He became an integral part of the backroom staff under Pearson and followed him to Hull and then to Leicester in 2011. Thankfully for Leicester, the management retained Walsh and the other backroom staff after Pearson’s sacking.
Walsh was persistent in asking Ranieri to sign N’Golo Kante, when the new manager arrived at the club and was met with expected skepticism at first. As the season wore on though, it was seen as an absolute robbery with Kante putting in top quality performances. (Mahrez was signed the previous season and Vardy two seasons prior to that, all recommended by Walsh) He was even handed the Assistant Manager role alongside his scouting duties at Leicester. Subsequently, he was snapped up by Everton earlier this season, after Iranian Farhad Moshiri bought 49.9% stake of Everton FC, and is now their new Director of Football. Everton are on a big rebuilding spree and the appointment of Walsh as the Sporting Director this season speaks of his credibility.
Walsh must be credited with overseeing the total over haul of the Leicester squad to turn them into the title winners they are now with Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Danny Simpson, Danny Drinkwater, Marc Albrighton and Leonardo Ulloa all being signed by the club in the last few years. Walsh is also known to be a deep researcher before he makes signings as he is known to look into the character of the players he recommends. He has built an extensive scouting unit at Leicester over the years. Walsh is also known to scout players well in advance before signing them with an example being Ahmed Musa who was courted by Leicester from January this year and signed in the summer transfer window by them.
Scouting talent and the lesser known players is of more profound importance to clubs who are not perennial title contenders. To bring up a team like that and win the title as convincingly as they did in a league as competitive as the Premier League, huge credit must go to the scouting setup at the club and the personal involvement and dedication shown by Steve Walsh in particular. Walsh deserves credit and more recognition for the work he has done at Leicester and should be considered as much as a loss as Kante this season for them.