TALKING TACTICS: Transfer research holds the key

SCOUT Phil Smith looks ahead to what could be a busy January transfer window for the Clarets.

Tuesday, 13th December 2011, 9:00 am

As Christmas draws closer, the focus inevitably begins to shift towards the January transfer window.

While not privy to the budget available to Eddie Howe, it is apparent that, particularly with the new FFP rules due to come into effect, recruitment is undertaken with one eye firmly on potential resale value. With that in mind, I have taken it upon myself to collate a shortlist of plausible, potential acquisitions for Burnley Football Club.

Upwards of 100 names have come to my attention. That is not due to lack of effort in “fine-tuning” my information, for want of a better word, but as a result of the need to consider all eventualities. For example, what would be suitable to sustain our Championship status, may very well be surplus to requirements should we earn promotion to the Premier League. Similarly, potential acquisitions come under two key brackets. Is the player required to improve the team immediately, a short term solution? Is the player raw, but has the correct attributes to learn his trade and improve ourselves over time, and thus be classed as a long term purchase?

A long term purchase would involve a player such as Rodney McDonald. Having developed through both the academies of Stoke City and Manchester City, the 19-year-old currently finds himself at Nantwich Town. His concentration and ability to read the game ensure that his quality is evident to those who have seen him in action. The left-sided defender may be deployed either as a centre half, or left full-back, given his pace, stamina, intelligence and off-the-ball ability.

A more familiar name would be that of Karl Sheppard, forward for Shamrock Rovers. Having recently made his Republic of Ireland Under-21 debut, with all due respect, it will not be long before he outgrows the League of Ireland. I would class him as a classic number 10. By that, I mean that his natural position is akin to that of a second striker.

I am in no doubt that Eddie Howe has spent hour upon hour sifting through information about numerous transfer targets. He has come in for criticism recently, namely for our lack of transfer activity. In my view, that is, in the main, unjustified. People need to be aware that football is nothing like that detailed in a popular management simulation.

If we take the example of a central defender, we can ascertain the difficulties faced when aiming to make any acquisition. The player may excel in core attributes such as tackling, marking, defensive posture and strength. Indeed his heading ability, concentration and ability to read the game may be unrivalled. However, that does not make him a suitable signing.

One must also consider consistency, attitude and personality. Basically, it is of paramount importance that, as a scout, you provide your manager with as much background information as possible. Inconsistency is a threat which needs to be guarded against. It is of no use making a judgement after one appearance, he may just have had an excellent game.

To cut a very long story short, research is the key. Going back to my shortlist, it may, after careful consideration, produce only a handful of genuine targets. That is no criticism of myself, but instead an indication as to how much research has to be undertaken in order to make a solitary signing at any given football club.

On Friday, my focus shifts away from talent analysis, back towards my regular tactical thoughts. After the disappointing late winner from David Norris on Saturday, our first ever visit to the AMEX stadium needs to result in a welcome three points.