Andy Scott Interview

edited February 21 in Swansea City

A significant amount has changed at Swansea City since Andy Scott was appointed as the club's head of recruitment in July 2019.

The Englishman has overseen four transfer windows during his time at the club, the most recent of which saw the Swans recruit a total of six players.

However, a raft of changes have been made behind the scenes at the Liberty Stadium and Fairwood during the course of the former Sheffield United, Brentford, Oxford United and Leyton Orient man's tenure in south Wales.

In an exclusive interview with WalesOnline's Swansea City correspondent Ian Mitchelmore, Scott discusses his time at the club so far and gives a clear insight into how dramatically the operation has changed in just 18 months.

A mess inherited

Little more than a month after Steve Cooper was appointed as head coach, Scott joined Swansea to head up the club's recruitment department.

However, after a season of stabilising under Graham Potter, the Swans were still adjusting to life in the Championship when Cooper and Scott arrived ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.

And Scott - working under a remit issued by the club's ownership group and then chairman Trevor Birch - quickly realised drastic squad changes needed to be made.

"When I first came in, I inherited a recruitment department that was non-existent. Kyle [Macaulay] had left with Graham to go to Brighton and we were left with no analysts, no scouts, no reporting system, so we had to build something from the outset," he said.

"Trevor had hired Steve and there was a clear understanding that we wanted to go back to player development, use players coming through the academy and reduce the wage bill because it was unsustainable."

First-team stars Daniel James and Oli McBurnie were sold to Manchester United and Sheffield United respectively for significant sums in the summer of 2019 while big earners including Wilfried Bony, Leroy Fer, Luciano Narsingh and Martin Olsson were released.

It was a process that became only too familiar for the Jack Army, particularly in the first four transfer windows outside of the Premier League while the fifth saw Joe Rodon join Tottenham.

"The club were coming to a point where parachute payments were coming to an end," explained Scott.

"We didn't want to be a club that had to sell its players, but if we chose to then we would get the best prices."

The turning point, and the success that followed

As Swansea continued to trim their wage bill while bringing through more and more players from the academy, the picture became increasingly positive as the club progressed in the Championship, particularly under Cooper who has had the Swans banging on the door of the Premier League.

And Scott's first full transfer window at the club represented something of a turning point.

"In January 2020, we managed to get a lot of the big salary earners out of the window and that was a really productive one, we saved a lot of money off the budget in that window, but we still recruited Conor Gallagher, Marc Guehi and Rhian Brewster who made a huge difference to us to allow us to get into the play-offs along with the players we already had," he said.

"That was probably a bit of a turning point in the squad succession planning and the building of what we've got now.

"What was initially a really difficult situation to come into with the size of the squad, the amount of players we had that weren't contributing and obviously the salaries we inherited, I think we've turned that around in the windows we've been here.

"We've improved the quality and size of the squad in every window. That's my main goal, to provide Steve with the best players we can and to give him the tools to get the results.

"It's been a little bit easier this season than the last two windows after the success of last year, obviously the work that Steve does and playing young players and having success attracts more agents and players, that does help.

"I think we've got to a point now where everyone believes Swansea have got a style of play and a type of player they want to bring in that fits with a lot of pathways of good, talented young players.

"We've married that with some experience as well that have supplemented the group and really complemented the characters we've got.

"I can't have asked for a better amount of windows and that just comes with the support of everybody in the senior management team and the first-team coaching staff to be able to do the job properly."

Significant contract restructuring

The Swans - famed for signing quality players for modest sums during their rise up the football pyramid - made some expensive transfer mistakes in the latter stages of their seven-year Premier League stay.

Jason Levien recently held his hands up when it came to admitting to some of the Swans' failures in the transfer market following the change in ownership at the club in 2016.

As such, contracts given to players in SA1 had to look somewhat different to those dished out in the top-flight era.

"As the squad morphs into what you want it to be, it makes it easier because, I don't think we've got any players who are twiddling their thumbs and not contributing at the moment, whereas, when I first came in I think there were a number of players who were earning good salaries but weren't being considered for the first team because they either weren't good enough or didn't sit right with how we play," said Scott.

"We've tried to streamline that, and we've done a lot of work in recruiting players, but part of recruitment is to make sure we tie down our best young players to longer-term deals.

"That's something myself, Julian [Winter] and Steve have been really conscious of, that we want to go to our best young players, offer them better contracts and show we value them.

"We want to reward them for what they've done. We've restructured all of the contracts and how we build the contracts to make it more sustainable, but being more incentive driven and based on success."

Ollie Cooper, Brandon Cooper, Tivonge Rushesha and Liam Cullen are all recent examples of players who have had their efforts rewarded with improved deals.

And it's fair to say the club's united stance has been pivotal in the turnaround on key squad matters.

The relationships behind an overhaul

During his time as chairman, Birch was a key cog in the link up between those on the ground in Swansea and the top brass in the United States of America.

Current chief executive Winter now operates as a vital piece in the jigsaw when it comes to solving the puzzle of improving Swansea's squad along with improving the state of the club's finances.

During Scott's time as head of recruitment, there has also been a significant shake-up at boardroom level, with Steve Kaplan relinquishing his position on the club's board of directors.

Nevertheless, those behind the scenes as well as the stars on the pitch have continuously aimed to pull together to achieve one common goal - promotion.

Dwindling parachute payments along with the loss of both Premier League TV income and matchday revenues - the latter of which has been an unexpected repercussion in the world of football owing to the coronavirus pandemic - have all ensured the entire operation has been testing to say the least.

But they haven't damaged the aims. Quite the opposite, in fact.

"We've got a clear identity of the profile of player we want to bring in, we know what character we want to bring in, we've got a clear financial plan, so if you've got that together with a group of senior management and coaching staff that understand that's the strategy, it makes it a lot easier because everyone is on the same page," revealed Scott.

"Julian has taken over Trevor's role. They're two very good people in what they do. I've found both of them really helpful in my role. That's all you can ask for in recruitment, that you're backed and that if you're making decisions, they trust you.

"I can only speak as I find, and ever since I've been at the football club, I've had a really good relationship with the ownership group. I speak to them regularly. They're been really supportive and have made it clear of what we can and can't do.

"They discuss situations with me, Julian and Steve. They get our opinion and don't make rash decisions. They understand what we're trying to do.

"Morgan Whittaker is a prime example. It's another really good deal we felt we could do with Derby being in the situation they're in. He's a player we've looked at a lot and we felt he would be a huge asset for us going forward.

"We went to the owners, and they backed us 100%. I can't ask for more than that."

Continued on next post...

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  • edited February 21

    The qualities needed for a transfer to happen

    Cooper has regularly spoken about the need to recruit players with the right character since he joined the club.

    Young guns such as Brewster, Gallagher, Guehi and Ben Wilmot came to Swansea with a desire to prove their worth at senior level while others such as Korey Smith, Jake Bidwell and Jamal Lowe had their own aims while also bringing the vital nuggets of experience that were much needed to supplement a youthful squad.

    "They've got to have drive and ambition," Scott said of Swansea's transfer targets.

    "We don't want them to be happy just coming to a Championship side, we want them to contribute to us becoming a Premier League side and then becoming internationals or top internationals or top Premier League players.

    "They need a growth mentality where they understand the environment they're coming into, the intensity of the work that's needed to improve them, not just individually, but collectively."

    Cooper and his assistant Mike Marsh have fully utilised their contacts in the game to recruit players since they were added to the Swans' payroll.

    And following the mistakes made in previous years, due diligence and succession planning have become more important than ever.

    "I'm not precious. My job is to bring in the best players we possibly can," admitted Scott.

    "If I can use Steve's contacts or Marshy's contacts, agents who I know or people that I know at different clubs to get information and find out something that someone else might not know, them I'm going to use that. That's my job.

    "We do a lot of work on due diligence, and we've got a lot of good guys who look at social media and do in-depth analysis. This is something I make clear to our academy players, there's always someone watching you.

    "Good characters are key to being successful, and we'd like to think we've made decisions on players based not just on their football ability, but their ability to come into a group, be a good personality and a contributor to success."

    Brexit and a trait behind Swansea's transfer business

    A total of 23 players have been brought in to the club during Cooper's reign as boss.

    Guehi and Freddie Woodman are currently in their second loan stints with the Swans, which takes Cooper's tally of signings up to 25.

    However, only four of those recruits (Paul Arriola, Jordan Morris, Aldo Kalulu and Kristoffer Peterson) were brought in from outside the United Kingdom.

    It hasn't been an entirely intended desire of the Swans when it comes to recruitment, although it has been felt that knowledge and understanding of the English football structure could prove far more beneficial than first thought.

    "It wasn't a conscious effort to bring in UK-based players, but we wanted a bit of experience," admits Scott.

    "Korey Smith was a key one to that. Jamal was a player we felt we could get a good price from Wigan, and he's done very well.

    "We knew Freddie and Marc, we could bring them back on loan.

    "I've looked players from all over South America and Europe, but it's the best fit, certainly in the last window.

    "Until the second week in December, we didn't know about the Brexit work permit regulations. You can't do the due diligence so we weren't prepared to take risks on bringing players in that we didn't know.

    "Moving forward, it's a lot clearer on where we can recruit from."

    The turbulent but highly productive window

    Having only discovered the full details of Brexit work permit regulations weeks before the recent January transfer window, the club's transfer plans were plunged into chaos.

    Lists of targets were altered while some of those identified had to be ruled out when it came to the prospect of a move to SA1.

    And then came the crushing news of Michael Obafemi's injury - a blow Scott was alerted to just a day before the Southampton striker was poised to travel to Swansea to complete a loan switch from the Saints.

    "Michael Obafemi was one we had lined up. We felt he fitted the profile we wanted, and the day before he came in he has an unfortunate injury so it changes what you do," explained Scott.

    "Everyone was looking for a loan striker because they haven't got the money to buy someone. Squads are bigger because of Covid and centre-forward is always a position where everyone wants to collect as many as possible.

    "It was a horrible phone call when I got that from the agent about him needing an operation on his injury. But we had to look at our list again, and we've got a number of players on our list, but we didn't know if we'd be able to get them or not."

    Injuries suffered by Cullen and Wayne Routledge during the 5-1 FA Cup fourth round win over Nottingham Forest intensified the need for Swansea to add firepower to their ranks.

    And it was an unfortunate situation in the homeland of Swansea's majority owners that ultimately came to the club's rescue.

    Morris was identified as a player who could boost Swansea's promotion hopes given his qualities while his USMNT team-mate Arriola was also brought in to bolster Cooper's attacking options.

    "The ownership group were really good with information we were getting from MLS," explained Scott.

    "It was a perfect storm really that MLS has deferred their season for a bit longer, which meant their players were doing nothing really for six months for the rest of our season. It was a good opportunity to get players that we probably wouldn't have been able to afford or get in previous windows for this window.

    "Jordan, we did a lot of work on. We were getting information from our people in DC that he's an excellent player, but we wanted to do our own due diligence. We realised his attributes would definitely compliment our squad. He's a really good asset.

    "Paul is exactly the same. The ownership group were really keen on him coming to us but they allowed us to make that decision because it had to be right for Steve and the squad and we're delighted to bring him in.

    "So the disappointment of losing out on Michael Obafemi was tempered by the fact we've brought in two full international players who are outstanding prospects."

    The goalkeeping picture also changed when it emerged that Steven Benda had suffered an ankle injury - an issue that required the German to undergo surgery which in turn will keep the 22-year-old sidelined for the majority of the rest of the campaign.

    Ben Hamer - who had previously attracted interest from the Swans - was brought in from Huddersfield Town on an 18-month deal.

    Scott admits it was a signing that was always on the cards, although Benda's unfortunate situation forced Swansea's hand.

    "Ben Hamer was one that, with Steven's injury, we knew in the summer if we didn't go up that Freddie would go back to Newcastle. We'd only be left with Steven Benda," he explained.

    "The plan was to always recruit another goalkeeper to compete with Steven. We just accelerated that process into January so we could have some succession planning and weren't continually trying to bring in the same positions."

    Kieron Freeman and Whittaker were also drafted in, although Conor Hourihane was undoubtedly the marquee signing of the January window as far as the Swans were concerned.

    The Aston Villa loanee has shone since moving to south Wales, and the capture of the Republic of Ireland international represented something of a real coup for the Swans - particularly given that Bournemouth and other Championship sides were keen to sign the 30-year-old.

    "He was a player we tried to sign from Barnsley when I was at Brentford," revealed Swansea's head of recruitment.

    "Steve spoke to an agent who he knew and he mentioned Conor's name. We took it from there and Steve did a really good job with Conor.

    "There's a lot of clubs in the Championship that were after him, but I think he was very keen on coming somewhere he was going to play and play to the way he wanted to play. But also he wanted to get into the Ireland side for the Euros.

    "He did his due diligence in us and vice versa. We knew if we could get him in, the loss of Morgan [Gibbs-White] to Wolves would be a lesser blow. So far, touch wood, it's been an outstanding acquisition, and he's a player that not only enhances us on the pitch, but off the pitch as well in terms of his standards and the quality he's got around the dressing room."

    Continued on next post...

  • edited February 21

    The key changes made and what the future holds

    Behind the scenes, Swansea are continuing to make tweaks to ensure the club maintains its journey on an upward trajectory.

    "We're fortunate that Steve Rands is head of performance," Scott explained.

    "Our use of data, we've got a really good model we're developing, working with and tweaking all the time.

    "We've got a couple of very good analysts. We're expanding the scouting group. We're trying to do more alignment with the academy in terms of profiling players, not just to come into the first team and under-23s, but further down the line as well."

    Although the quest for perfection means Scott and others in the corridors of power at the club will keep striving for more in the future.

    "There are a lot more areas I'd like to improve, but it's not just about the first team, it's about succession planning," admits Scott.

    "We believe that Steve will put a side together and coach and develop them so that if we don't get into the Premier League, there's going to be Premier League interest in our young players.

    "At some point, there's going to be a point where the club can't say no to an offer, and if that's the case, then we've already got a player in the building that can step in to those shoes and become the next asset."

    So what can fans expect in the summer transfer window?

    That's a question that can't be fully answered until around 4:50pm on May 8 when Swansea's regular season reaches its climax at Watford, although it could drag on even further should the club be involved in a second consecutive play-off campaign.

    But plans are in place for both outcomes.

    And Scott already knows what's required.

    "We've gone probably in the last two windows - from August - looking at nine players we'd have to recruit this summer coming, there's probably three key positions we need now. So that makes a massive difference to my workload," he concluded.

    Time will tell as to whether or not Scott is dining at the top of the transfer tree in the summer, although it seems the Jack Army can live safe in the knowledge that the 48-year-old has more than played his part in ensuring the club's transfer operation is in good hands, regardless of the circumstances the club finds itself in.


  • Great article and probably good timing for it to be issued.

    Not surprised by the chaos inherited and the inside story fits in with how it seems from the outside. I hope he stays for sometime as he is a positive influence.

    JackaremeSeaJack
  • Good read in my view.It seems genuine and as transparent as anyone could expect.

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