Celtic, Kyogo And The Reason The Ibrox “Recruitment Reforms” Simply Will Not Work.

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Last week, the media was steered to write a story about how the Ibrox club intends to rejig its entire recruitment process, starting – perversely – with the dismantling of its entire scouting system, and their imminent replacement with a “data driven model.”

Now, listen, data driven scouting is part of the modern game. But as I wrote last week, the two systems have to operate in tandem; you still need boots on the ground in order for this to work. Nowhere is that more ably demonstrated than in our current first team squad.

Three years ago, when we thought that the manager might be Eddie Howe, there was a lot of stuff in the papers about the players we were linked to. It’s almost certain that at least some of those players were on Eddie Howe’s list, and a less inspiring bunch you could not hope to find, guys like Robbie Brady and others.

I’m not saying they’d have been bad signings. Howe would have crafted a Celtic team which did good things and which would have been a formidable unit. He’s proved that at Newcastle. But most of the signings would have been unimaginative and almost all would have been based in Europe. It took the radical shift of appointing a manager with Far East knowledge for us to make the definitive break from our previous policy of looking within our own continent.

Now we look to Asia and the Americas. I think we should also be looking at Africa, and I suspect that we are. This shift has opened up avenues for us to sign people which always existed but were never properly explored. Now we’re exploring them. Now we’re on the hunt further afield than we ever have been before, and that is all to the good.

Having the data at your fingertips is great, and it was given much public attention first because of Michael Lewis’ tremendous book Moneyball, about sabermetrics – a baseball term for the use of stats in predicting how players will perform – and then in the subsequent film of the same name, both telling the story of how the Oakland A’s put together a record-breaking winning run with a team assembled by the number crunchers.

But the upshot of the film and the book is that the A’s never did win the pendant, and whilst the Boston Red Sox did win their first title in decades using some of the same systems which Fenway Sports, and their own John W. Henry, later used to great effect at Liverpool, they didn’t construct an entire team based on data analysis.

They used the data to underpin the work of their scouting teams, blending the two in a way that is now used across professional sports.

They have to be used in tandem, and it doesn’t really matter which comes first, the data or the scouting report that says “this kid is outstanding.” You need to examine both and using both make a judgement on whether or not to proceed with an offer.

Here’s the real issue, and the reason Celtic has spent a lot of time and money on this problem by setting up not only a scouting network but affiliate links all across football. You also need local knowledge, people on the ground who have watched players in the flesh for a long time and can then say to your club “this guy, you should snap up immediately.”

Without that local knowledge, you are sifting through sand. Because unless you have the data for every player, playing everywhere in the world, and a way to filter it easily, you’ll never know where to prioritise your search or how to narrow it down.

We were lucky that Ange Postecoglou had that detailed first-hand knowledge, otherwise Hatate, Maeda and, of course, Kyogo might still be over there or more likely they’d be somewhere else. These players may or may not have been discovered by the use of analytics but it was the calm reassurance of the manager that made the difference.

This is why we invest big money in the scouting department, and as we expand the scope, we need to spend more cash on this than ever before.

We need permanent scouts in these places, and deep roots put down in affiliate clubs and other areas.

This is how we’ll make sure that we pair good data with that actual knowledge which can only be gleaned watching someone play, and then looking them in the eye afterwards.

This is why Ibrox’s master plan won’t work.

They are lurching from one extreme to the other with their decision to dismantle their scouting network and replacing it with nothing but data. Data didn’t find us the Japanese players and so their chances of finding the Kyogo’s and Hatate’s is greatly reduced. It’s typical of the way they work over there, and it’s clear that this is a move motivated by the need to cut costs rather than anything else.

They never will get it. What we do is not as simple as it looks, nowhere near it. I may have criticised the way the manager’s wishes were ignored during the window, but I would put money on the bulk of our signings turning out not just right but brilliantly … and they look at that across the city, and they see what we do, and are convinced that it’s easy.

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  • Frank says:

    Clearly this approach has proved itself given the quality thats been brought in and in some cases moved on with a good profit. My issue is with the development players coming through {or not}. We are clearly investigating vast funds in this area with little return currently, The B team has played 8 games in the Lowland league with three wins only which is not a great return

  • Kevan McKeown says:

    Moneyball gave a good insight, tho it’s still a gamble, on how it could be done, bringin in low budget players based on their specific strengths, mainly havin the ability tae get tae ‘base’ where baseball’s concerned. Imo its a bit like, in football, takin a chance on a player who’s no considered a great player, but has the record of i.e. most assists in all the leagues. Tho the balance with notable, proven players, definitely has tae be there. On Kyogo and i’m digressin here, how utterly fkn sly was that, for a reporter up here, bringin tae the Feyenoord boss’s attention (in case he didnae know eh ?! ), Kyogo was carryin a dodgy shoulder. Just thought ah’d mention it.

  • Captain Swing says:

    On the positive side, dismantling their “scouting network” leaves the imbecilic knuckledragger we know as John ‘Bomber’ Broon seeking alternative employment…..”do you want fries with that?” is a phrase he might need to learn, after all even a gig on the orange lodge, bowling club and Burns Supper after-dinner speaking circuit still requires the ability to string two words together….

  • Fun time frankie says:

    James I’d just like to know who done the scouting on adjeti,barcas and bernabie almost 15 million of utter dross that we’ve flung down the lavvy

  • JimBhoy says:

    I work in data and analytics and AI/ML and have great tools to devise marketing models, analytics to create data products but you need people to drive this so rangers may be downsizing personnel and getting new data intelligence but they will need people to understand the apps and data to derive results. This may be replacement heads who have an analytics backgroud for some of the football bodies.

    These systems and processes take a while to get working for you especially when you are talking about human assets and at the end of the day a good manager is required to select what he needs based on the intelligence presented to him. This will be a medium to long term program imo.

    In the meantime with money short, some less than valuable new assets and high wage bills based on bad recruitment not to mention a manager they are actively trying to replace, rangers will not see much changing any time soon.

  • Johnny Green says:

    they look at that across the city, and they see what we do, and are convinced that it’s easy.

    I think it is actually easy for us now that we have the expertise, but of course getting to that level took a lot of hard work, and we had to experience a lot of pitfalls along the way. We do though seem to have a sufficiently successful system that brings us positive rewards despite some negative buys along the way, which are inevitable of course as no system is perfect.

    The huns though, don’t have the patience for all of that, they want a quick fix that isn’t there, and never will be there. They are, and they will always be constantly playing catch up to Celtic for many years to come. In fact, unless some sugar daddy takes them over in the future they will always be just annoying diminutive dots in the back of our rear view mirror.

  • Johnno says:

    Tend to trust the process involved moreso if even questionable currently.
    We needed an increase in squad numbers, especially as Ange seemed to only really wanted to depend upon 16 players, which in turn caused a few issues when injuries struck and we started to have to use players outside of his 16.
    Think inprovements have been made in that regards, yet remains unclear to what actual degree as of yet.
    Even tonight with our biggest game to date this season, still only got 8 players including Philips that I would feel comfortable about playing at this level of football.
    So still another 8 needed to possibly get through tonight’s match with question marks regarding if they are or can handle this level of football still?
    Slightly unbalanced due to the injuries of CCV and abada, yet is that good enough to find ourselves in this position still?
    I will refer back to last season, and could we say with any degree of confidence of saying 8 would handel CL?
    Especially without any knowledge about so many players actually ever playing at that level before?
    We still seem to be taking steps in the right direction, maybe not quickly enough for many including myself at times.
    We will still require our 8 dependables to be in good form tonight and a wonderful opportunity will be given to others to really make a huge claim for themselves within this celtic team.
    There is nothing taken for granted within football, and still believe that there is enough within this squad to be able to step up to this higher level required, regardless of the question marks and to what degree, even if it’s a bit early within there celtic career to maybe find the level of consistency and quality, that’s required at this level, and no amount of data will provide that either

  • Michael Clark says:

    Celtic have had a brilliant scouting staff for as long as I can remember. You just have to look at the players that (unfortunately) have moved on. Had we been able to keep these players in Scotland, we might have had better success in the Champions league.

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