Ipswich Town director of football Dave Bowman and head of performance analysis Jordan Miles, speak to Stuart Watson
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Ipswich Town have, according to manager and players alike, their strongest squad in years. STUART WATSON spoke to director of football Dave Bowman about the secrets behind the recruitment process.
Money isn’t everything.
Championship clubs spent in excess of £100m on transfer fees in the last window. Ipswich Town, by contrast, once again went down Mick McCarthy’s tried and trusted route of uncovering hidden gems and getting more out of players that others had written off.
A couple of young Premier League wingers on loan, a left-back, Jonas Knudsen, below, from Denmark, a centre-back from Poland, a defender discarded by Cardiff, an Aussie who had learnt his trade in Holland, a 30-something Guinea wideman who had been playing in Bulgaria...
The Blues finished sixth in the Championship with a squad that cost a grand total of £110,000 last season. And that squad has, by general consensus, been very much strengthened with an additional spend of around the same amount again.
“There’s a lot of jealousy in football – people always come up to us and say ‘how do you guys do it?’ So forgive me if I don’t give too much away today.”
Dave Bowman smiles mischievously when delivering that statement.
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It’s Thursday or ‘Dave’s Day’, as Mick McCarthy has dubbed it, at Playford Road.
The Blues boss has vacated his office for the afternoon to allow his long-term trusted adviser to go about his business.
Bowman’s got the train down from his home in the north east, as he does every week, to relay all the information he has gathered from several personal scouting missions to McCarthy and Terry Connor. He’ll also use the time to organise where his scouting team will be over the course of the next fortnight.
“Just as the manager has to put a side out every week, I have to put a scouting team out every week,” says Bowman, who, alongside Ian Evans, has followed McCarthy throughout his career.
“I wouldn’t like to reveal how many scouts we’ve got, but it’s not as many as some people might think.
“It’s the same experienced and dedicated scouting system that we had at Sunderland and at Wolves and we continue to work to the proven blueprint which has brought us success wherever we’ve been.”
Matt Jarvis, Michael Kightly, Steve Fletcher and Stephen Ward were all bought for a pittance and sold for millions by the aforementioned teams. This summer Tyrone Mings joined the prodigious profit club, a left-back plucked from non-league for £10,000 moving on for a cool £8m.
“It’s all about contacts,” said Bowman. “Over the years we’ve built up a network of people that we can speak to both in Britain and abroad; people at football associations, within the Premier League, at international federations, at sports manufacturers, agents...
“I don’t want to give too much away, but some of those contacts and link-ups allow us to access information on players that other clubs cannot access.
“Those contacts enable us to steal a march on others. Ainsley Maitland-Niles is a good example of that – we had that deal sealed before last season had even finished.”
He continues: “We do a lot of background work on players’ character and personality because this football club is a family and these are guys that we are bringing into our family. That creates a positive atmosphere.
“Word spreads in football and, all of a sudden, you get clubs coming to you asking if they can give you a player on loan or a player asking if they can come and train with you. Take Larsen Toure, that one came about because Kevin Bru put him forwards.”
The transfer window for permanent additions may have shut at the end of August, but the work of a scout never stops.
“The list of players being closely monitored, at any given time, is 10 maximum,” said Bowman. “But there are several lists that we can follow up on at any given moment. Say, for example, that we found ourselves without a right-back for the Under-21s – we would have a list to go to.
“We’re always looking at potential free agents and already we’re looking at the players that might become out of contract at the end of this season. You’ve got to be ahead of the game.
“Some might say why aren’t we spending more, but we’ve got two promotions out of working this way and got in the play-offs last season. If you’ve had success, why change it?”