PFSA blog – Catching up Craig Lawlor, Head of Technical Scouting at Preston North End

For the next instalment of our PFSA Blog, we catch up with Craig Lawlor, Head of Technical Scouting at Preston North End, Lecturer in Sports Coaching and Performance Analysis at UCLan and Course Tutor with the PFSA. Craig has been a full-time member of staff at UCLan for nearly five years and has shared this position with a part-time consultancy role at Preston North End for just over 12 months. Prior to this he worked as a First Team Scout at Brentford Football Club and as Senior Scout at Blackburn Rovers. Over the past 3 years he has delivered a number of courses for the PFSA both in the UK and abroad. We caught up with him to find out about his role with Preston North End and to discuss his thoughts on scout education.

“At Preston we have a very thorough scouting and recruitment process built on a well-defined criteria for the requirements of players in every position” Craig said. “The club has a team of dedicated scouts led by Head of Recruitment, Joe Savage and the department has an excellent understanding of what a Preston North End player looks and feels like. We utilise technical data, video scouting and live scouting to identify suitable players in our target leagues.”

Craig followed on by explaining the harmony between his Technical Scouting role and his full-time position at UCLan,

“I’m in a privileged position to have 7 part-time student scouts assisting me in my role at Preston. As leader of the performance analysis modules at the university, I have been able to recruit some excellent students who complete placements as part of their course.” The Technical Scouting department at Preston highlights the progression of scouting in recent years where Craig and his students complete rigorous data analysis backed up by qualitative analysis in the form of scouting reports to provide player recommendations to the club’s Head of Recruitment. “Joe Savage was really keen to forge a relationship with the University and is hugely supportive of the work the students produce,” said Craig, “his support has helped students to feel empowered to the point that they are having a significant impact on the targets we present to the Manager and Coaching Staff.”

Several of Craig’s students, currently studying Sports Coaching degrees either at Masters level or Undergraduate level at UCLan have completed PFSA courses in recent months and Craig believes they have really benefitted from the programme.

“As a department we consistently produce up to 120 player reports per month on our online database and I need to be able to trust the quality of the reports the students are producing. The PFSA’s courses really help the students to consider their role as a scout and most importantly, the way they construct their reports.”

Jack Temple, a second year Football Coaching and Development student comments,

“I loved the PFSA courses, they really questioned the language aspect of my reporting. I found the tutors challenged the content of our reports and it made me consider what the end user values whether that’s short, concise comments or a big write up.”

With regards to his role at Preston, Jack stated,

“I think with our department being largely laptop based scouting it is a stretched resource which means we have to be creative and more flexible with the content we’re watching. This means we have to be thorough and do more digging to get an answer on a player and it’s credit to the team that we can get answers so quickly”.

Similarly, final year Sports Coaching and Performance student James McArthur is now considering pursuing a career in the field after being given exposure to the world of scouting and recruitment. James states,

“I have really enjoyed and learnt a lot from my Technical Scouting placement at Preston. It’s allowed me to gain really useful first hand experience of working and contributing to a very high level football club”.

Concerning his experience of the PFSA’s courses James sates

“As well as my placement, my development has been aided through completing qualifications through the PFSA. These experiences have always been positive, the online qualifications were easy to access and offered a perspective on scouting that I would not previously have appreciated”.

James goes on to state

“As well as this, they hold good value when competing for roles in the footballing world. After speaking to people at professional clubs, the importance of these qualifications has really been highlighted to me”.

As a Lecturer and Course Tutor, the education of scouts is something Craig is very passionate about and feels it is something which is improving and will continue to grow in the future.

“Scout education is something which has been neglected for such a long time, hence why I was so keen to speak with Purves and get involved with the PFSA when the opportunity presented itself.”

Craig goes on to state,

“Likewise, at UCLan, we are always looking to develop our courses and are currently in the process of embedding talent identification and scouting into our course portfolio.”

Regarding his own education, Craig is partway through his PhD, An Analysis of Scouting and Recruitment in Professional Football: Issues and Future Developments and this is something which he hopes will drive scout education forward in the future.

“Outside of people actually working in the game, very few people have a real understanding of what scouts actually do,”

Craig said,

“and I’m hoping the PhD will unearth more on the role of the scout as well as helping to identify what effective, efficient scouting and recruitment looks like in practice”.

Finally, regarding his students, Craig was very complimentary of their work, which comes as a result of their education and experience at Preston North End.

“I really think they are some of the most employable young people in scouting, recruitment and performance analysis in the country. The experience they have gained this year will be invaluable and coupled with their academic qualifications and their additional qualifications through the PFSA will stand them in good stead for full-time roles in football in the not too distant future”.

Craig will be delivering the first of our online webinars this Sunday 30th August, Level Three: Player/Team Match Analysis.