Scouting For Boro
By Mick Richardson
Friday 06 Sep 2019 11:49:00
Browse all Over 30 years of Fly Me articles


This week Boro have been advertising for a new scout, one Boro fan and writer has recent experience of scouting for Boro. Mick Richardson author of The Boro Phallacy wrote his story of how he became a Boro scout for Fly Me To The Moon.

About 7 years ago, when my son Matthew was playing in the TJFA local football leagues, I stumbled upon an idea whereby, If I set up a football facebook page, parents of some of his old friends could keep in touch with how their children were playing, let me know if they had scored or not and what result they had achieved that day. I figured by having one place were parents could post, then I’d save a small fortune on sending out individual texts to old friends.

Yet almost overnight, that facebook page exploded, and numbers rose rapidly to over 7000 members. Most of them talking about local grassroots football, players, managers, tables, men of the match and goal scorers. By shear accident, I’d found a missing niche in the football market and realised rather quickly that some of the things that were being posted, would be gold dust to a professional club, who send scouts all over the North East looking for local talent. With that in mind, I contacted MFC and told them I’d like to help finding the next Juninho.

A few weeks later and I’m nervously sat outside Hurworth waiting for my interview with boro legend Ron Bone. He meets me at the training ground reception, takes me into the players restaurant on the first floor, pours me a cup of tea and regales tales of days gone by. It was surreal, I mean I’ve been a Boro supporter for over 30 years, home and away and here I am, sipping Yorkshire tea in Boro’s headquarters with their chief scout. Unbelievable.

He tells me of the Rioch days and how much the club had changed since those dark days of liquidation. Rioch telling Ron on one occasion to park over the manhole cover that supplied water to Ayresome Park so he could have water plumbed to the changing room. The waterboard were outside trying to turn it off at the time due to lack of payment and Ron was pretending his car had broken down over the main valve.

I stayed with Ron for about 2 hours that day and at the end of it he turns to me and says, “so would you like to scout for Boro?” I was in dreamland, though I wasn’t too naive to know that a scout is only as good as his recommendations. I had so much to learn but was keen to get started.

As luck would have it, I met another Boro scout called Andy in those first few weeks and he took me under his wing. I learned so much from him and yet was always amazed at how a group of people could spot different skills from the same player. Vision, speed, spatial awareness. His keenness to learn, attitude, effort etc. These were the scout buzzwords used every weekend and I relished in my new vocabulary.

As scouts we would travel the length and breadth of the North East. Bishop Auckland, Durham, Thirsk, Darlington, Newcastle. Not a weekend went by without us planning our fastest route to junior games via a burger van of course. In all weather too. The more horrendous the better. If a kid was still busting his lungs during those games when most would be forgiven for wanting to be at home in the warmth then he was usually given an extra coat of looking at for attitude alone. Though my wife could never understand my desire to be out every weekend. “Why do you do it?” she once asked. “Well it’s the Boro isn’t it” was my honest and only reply.

On one particularly hot afternoon, I was over at the Nunthorpe sports field taking in an U9 division two game and there was one kid playing for Cleveland Juniors on the left wing who was absolutely destroying Nunthorpe. They couldn’t get near him.

“Surely you’ve seen enough of him to get his name by now” asked a bloke from over my right shoulder,

“Maybe” I responded, still keeping my eyes on the game.

“Well when I signed Mustapha Carayol, I only watched him for 25 minutes and then left the ground” says the voice again.

I turned and came face to face with Tony Mowbray, my boyhood hero. A bloke I used to impersonate on the school playground, I was in awe of him though tried not to let it show. I spent the rest of the afternoon scouting with him that day and he was so down to earth. Just hearing how he studied the game, he’s thoughts on tactics and positioning. I tried to soak up everything he said in those couple of hours I spent in his company, what a gentleman. I got the wingers name too, and after spending time with the parent getting the details I required, I set off to walk to my car only for Tony to shout over to me whilst waving, “See you later mate” Me and Tony mates ha ha quality, though I’m still yet to be invited round for a BBQ.

The first kid I put in Boro development was only six and playing for Thornaby when I spotted him. Six years old and playing with the intelligence of a kid twice his age. He scored six that day and was mesmerising to watch. The club liked what they saw too and asked him up to Hurworth for the Friday night training sessions. They then asked if I would mind showing him around Hurworth as I was his first point of contact and a familiar face in what otherwise can be quite a daunting experience for a small boy.

So, there I was, in my full scout uniform, Showing this kid and his parents around the Hurworth training complex. Now I’d been up there quite a few times, but some rooms are out of bounds to us scouts and for good reason. Loose lips sink ships and all that. So, it must have been quite baffling to this boy’s parents then as they followed me around as I was opening doors, trying to remember where the boot room was, only to reveal the broom cupboard, with mops and buckets falling from behind the door ha ha. Still it was a privilege to do it. These where the same corridors legends like Emerson, Gazza and Merson had walked before me. Robson, Boksic and Southgate too. I was buzzing. Though I bet they’d never held a mop Like I did that day. Well maybe Gazza, who was labelled as daft as a brush.

There was one match I remember over at Stokesely that had me belly laughing. One parent had been shouting at his seven-year-old son all game.

“Put a tackle in here, get stuck in there, pass it, shoot” on and on this dad went and the kid was clearly confused. His coach was asking him to do one job, and his dad was instructing him in other things. Finally, his dad shouts out, “Just sit at the back for 10 minutes and catch your breath”

So the kid does exactly that. He sits down just outside the D and the opposition run past him unchallenged and score.

“What on Earth are you doing” his dad shouts.

“Well you told me to sit at the back” the lad responds. Everyone around the pitch erupted with laughter.

I managed to watch over 800 games in some format in my 4 years as a Boro scout. An episode that came to a sad end with the changing of the guard at Hurworth. Out went the retiring Ron Bone and with me working away from home, the decision was taken to release me. I was gutted but fully understood their reasoning. I still get the odd text from parents thanking me for putting their children forward, especially those who have signed academy forms. And who knows, in ten years, one of those could be making his debut for Boro

Be Lucky

Mick Richardson

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