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Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds

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1999-12-11 Times.jpg


Reference books lie stacked on a large desk, match videos are piled high on the window-sill, year planners and fixture lists adorn the walls. The office of Brian Greenhalgh, the Watford chief scout, is neat, tidy, functional - a nerve centre for collating and disseminating information on players from the United Kingdom, Europe and, occasionally, beyond.

It is where the future of Watford FC may rest, where the names of prospective purchases are discussed, tossed in the air and either rejected or reserved for a second opinion.

It is where Greenhalgh will decide to travel to Iceland, to look at the promising Eimar Goalscorersson, or concur with Graham Taylor, the Watford manager, that Hristo Goodsaveski, the Bulgarian goalkeeper, is not for them.

Taylor, now immersed in matters of survival in the FA Carling Premiership, has handed over the day-to-day running of the job to Greenhalgh who, two months into it, is close to assembling the jigsaw.

"By January 1, the new structure should be in place," he said. "We're up and running already, we're operational, it's just a matter of agreeing everything with Graham and then off we go."

Scouts tread cautiously through minefields, as agents hawk their wares, heaping lavish praise on often dubious talents. First-hand sight is essential. Since arriving at Watford, Greenhalgh has visited France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands in pursuit of a bargain, clocking up 20,000 miles.

"I've never brought a player to a club in my life," he said. "It's the manager who does that. I'm just part of the system, it's my job to provide the information in relation to what a player can or cannot do. Everyone will tell you about a good player, but what matters is whether he is right for the club."

Checks, perhaps revealing previously unknown weaknesses, are mandatory. "That's very important," he said, "even more important nowadays because of the many foreign mentalities you have to deal with. You have to do your homework. It's vital that you speak to the people who can give you the edge on that.

"Life is about communicating with people, getting on with them, taking the mickey, having a giggle, having a laugh. Once the work is done, I enjoy all that. I like socialising, being with people, pulling tricks, lightening things up. It's what it's all about."

Greenhalgh, 52, speaks slowly, reminiscing with clarity and humour. He played for eight clubs, including Watford, moved into non-league football, and then became a sales rep. Later, with a friend, he set up a company that provided bar accessories.

Under the amiable exterior, though, lies an obsessive, stubborn streak, a factor in the divorce from his wife, Annette, after 22 years of marriage. "I was never home," he said. "I'd start work at 9.30, which isn't early, but I wouldn't get back until 11pm or, sometimes, 1am the next morning.

"I've always gone with the work, that's my mentality, and although, at times, I shouldn't have, that's what I did. It might sound horrible but because I wasn't there a lot, it probably made the split easier."

When Tommy Docherty arrived as manager of Aston Villa, a young Greenhalgh showed little respect for reputations. "The first thing he said to me was 'You're leaving'. I said 'No, I'm not' and it became a bit of a battle. He told me I wouldn't wear the Villa shirt again and I said I'd show him. But I didn't. Maybe I should have dealt with it differently."

At the end of last season, after 15 years with Everton, as part-time then chief scout, he was made redundant. He and Walter Smith, the manager, had drifted on to different wavelengths. "There was no falling out," he said, "but because of all the politics, the turmoil, I couldn't really see anyone who knew in which direction the club was going."

Greenhalgh's network at Watford is almost in place and, if need be, he will return to Goodison Park to poach their best informants. "I will, I've no worries about that," he said, his sense of mischief rising to the fore. "You've got to. It's dog eat dog out there."


Graham Simpson, the new Watford director, has appeared in Z Cars and Dr Who

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  • APA 6th ed.: Kempson, Russell (1999-12-11). Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds. The Times p. 38.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Kempson, Russell. "Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds." The Times [add city] 1999-12-11, 38. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Kempson, Russell. "Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds." The Times, edition, sec., 1999-12-11
  • Turabian: Kempson, Russell. "Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds." The Times, 1999-12-11, section, 38 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds | url= | work=The Times | pages=38 | date=1999-12-11 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Talent spotter treasures hunt for uncut diamonds | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=17 July 2024}}</ref>