With the January transfer window now open, Wolves’ head of recruitment John Marshall has lifted the lid on how his team prepares for this busy period.
Since Fosun have taken over Wolves, the recruitment department has expanded dramatically, with the former Fulham midfielder and his multitude of scouts covering thousands of prospective transfers from across Europe and beyond.
The team are currently writing reports on more than 6,000 players per year in a bid to improve Nuno Espirito Santo’s squad.
Marshall said: “We have gone from doing probably about 1,000/1,500 reports per season from when I first started here, to now doing about 500 a month, whether that is live viewings or video footage.
“Within the 6,000 players, we’re either seeing people once and monitoring them or we’re seeing teams of players over a period of time.
“We target the top teams in Europe and we also cover the younger groups when we can. If we’re going out to a Champions League game, then we’ll see the younger teams in the afternoon.
“The Europa League is a very good competition for spotting talent, while the leagues we cover are in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic.
“We’ve been covering these leagues since September 2017 – just over a year – and I’ve kept the same guys covering the same leagues, so there is a continuity. They get to own the leagues they are covering, they get to know the teams and know the players they are looking at.
“The base and depth of knowledge that we have is very good as it’s a broad spectrum.”
Marshall explained that once a player has been identified whom the scouts think will benefit the club, several steps would be followed.
“We’ll get the video scouts to watch a few of his previous games – if they haven’t been watched – before more live viewings.
“Then either myself or Kevin [Thelwell, Sporting Director] will go out to watch them. If they’re a realistic target for the first team or the under-23s, that is when they will be flagged up to the manager.
“It’s like a pyramid process. We start with a base layer of data and video reports, which then moves onto live reporting and filtering up the food chain to me and Kevin, and then to Nuno and the management team.
“I sit down with Rui [Pedro Silva] and Ian Cathro every couple of weeks and go through the players we’ve been watching and then present them on video footage.
“We then decide who would be a good fit for us, working together to compile an ongoing list, so when the January window comes we are in a position where we have done a lot of the work. If there is a need to replace or strengthen in certain positions, then we can do.”
But Marshall admits the job of the recruitment staff is getting more difficult each season due to the quality of players which are required as the club progresses in the Premier League.
“It’s getting harder the better we’re playing,” he explained. “The criteria we work to is that they have to be a significant improvement on what we already have, or be another option to the squad. They also have to fit into the needs of the system we are playing.
“We’re doing a project where we’re looking at teams across Europe who are playing a similar 3-4-3 system, because playing week-in, week-out in the system, players get to know it and if you bring a player in who’s already playing in it, then they have a lot of knowledge of how the role is.”
Despite the transfer window now being open, the work doesn’t stop regarding recruiting players to both the first team and across the Academy.
“It gets more critical towards January,” Marshall added. “The work doesn’t intensify, because we work at quite a high intensity anyway and the guys want to go out all the time.
“A couple of guys went out to France and Italy and did 12 days solid – between them they had one day where they weren’t watching a game.
“With all the travelling between the places they were staying and writing up their reports it’s quite intense. It gets a little more stressful as you get towards the January window because all the teams are looking for the same sorts of thing, so there’s a lot of competition.
“But it doesn’t get to January 1st and we think ‘great, we’ve got a month off now’, it carries on.”
This article first appeared in the Wolves versus Crystal Palace matchday programme, which is available around Molineux on matchdays for just £3.50, and also featured content with Romain Saiss, Leander Dendoncker and Phil Parkes. Back issues are available in the Molineux Megastore and online now.