Football as seen from the inside by ousted scout

ANTON RIPPON reckons he has found a minor football gem in Les Padfield’s book, Scouting for Moyes

I’ve had a jaundiced view of football scouts ever since the day in 1958 when a dodgy looking bloke in a long mac tried to chat up a cherubic outside-left who played for our school team. The man said that he was a talent spotter from Arsenal and invited our fresh-faced winger home for Sunday tea. Happily, a teacher intervened and the man in the mac beat a hasty retreat, almost certainly not back to Highbury.

There are no such nefarious goings-on in Les Padfield’s book, however. Indeed, when he isn’t a football scout, Padfield is himself a trusted teacher. He is also a gifted storyteller, his Scouting for Moyes a real treasure trove of tales, funny and sad, often downright ridiculous, from the tight-knit world occupied by those who search out talent for top clubs.

The book is published by Sports Books, SJA Treasurer Randall Northam’s Cheltenham-based specialist company, and all Padfield’s royalties are being donated to Cancer Research.

Until recently – until Scouting for Moyes came out, in fact – Padfield was employed by Bolton Wanderers. Upon publication, he was fired. The reason he was given was the usual excuse – cutbacks – but it may just be that they don’t have a sense of humour at the Reebok. It may be that his description of three Bolton players being “not only too slow for yelled instructions from the touchline, but too slow for smoke signals”, might just have sealed his fate.

But, generally, Padfield laughs at himself. An East Ender and excellent schoolboy footballer that attracted the attentions of Leyton Orient and Millwall, he played in the same schools team as Harry Redknapp. But when he extended a hand and said, “Hello, Harry, remember me?”, the Spurs manager blanked him.

We get a run down of the best – and worst – hospitality that clubs can offer. And a fund of great stories, like a trip to Nigeria to watch a player who then announced that he’d decided to become a doctor instead. And being pressganged into service as the fourth official for a match between Orient and Scunthorpe.

The chapters are small and this is very much a “dip into” book, which works for me because it’s tantamount to listening to some hugely entertaining anecdotes from a polished raconteur. It is certainly a far more enjoyable read than the bland ghostwritten players’ biographies that, depressingly, seem to take up the shelf space in most bookshops.

There are a few typos that might have been spotted by an eagle-eyed desk editor. And if there is a reason why the book is randomly set in two different typefaces – one serif, one sans serif – then it has escaped me.

Oh, and if you happen to be an Everton fan expecting the dirt on Goodison Park, then the title is misleading. Padfield spent only the briefest spell working for David Moyes, and that was when the manager was at Preston. But, as the publicity sheet says, the title was too good to resist.

In the meantime, a talent scout with a talent of his own has produced a real gem of a book. I loved it.

Scouting for Moyes, by Les Padfield (Sports Books, £8.99)