How to Become a Football Scout: the first in an exclusive series for Untold by the man who discovered Joel Campbell


By Danny Karbassiyoon

Danny Karbassiyoon is a former professional footballer with Arsenal who was forced to retire at 22 due to recurring knee injuries. Soon after hanging up his boots, he was hired as a scout for Arsenal and spent 7 years scouting the Americas full time before recently moving back to London.

Despite his short-lived career as a player, Danny made three appearances for the first team in 2004, becoming the first American to score for the Gunners when he scored  the winner against Manchester City in the League Cup. He later went on loan to Ipswich Town before signing for Burnley Football Club in 2005. In 2007, Danny re-signed for Arsenal as a scout and has since been credited for finding Gedion Zelalem and Joel Campbell.

This is the first of a series of articles that Danny is writing for Untold Arsenal on the subject of the world of the football scout.


I’m often asked how I stumbled across my scouting job and how others could similarly get into the scouting and professional football industry. While the age-old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know” certainly applies for helping one get into the industry, it’ll only take you so far before you really have to prove you know what you’re talking about.

It is true that managers, chief scouts, sporting directors, and other positions of high regard often turn to ex-players when it comes to scouting. It’s quite simple why as well – ex-players not only understand the immediate needs and requirements for the club and manager on the pitch, but they also understand what it takes for a player to make it at that specific club.

In my specific experience, I came to London as an 18 year old, signed professional forms upon arrival, and was immediately thrown into the reserves. There was an incredible mix of players in my group at that time. Guys that had been scouted like myself and brought in at 16, 17 or 18, and local lads that had been with the Club since they were 7, 8, and 9 years old.

Over my two years in London, I saw players get released that had been with the Club for over a decade, while others who had recently been brought in catapulted their way into first-team selection over the course of months.

I saw first-hand the technical requirements and the tactical acumen required to make it at Arsenal. I sometimes compared my time at Arsenal as being at a university where football was the only path one could go down, the teachers coming in the form of veteran first-teamers who had won World Cups, Premier Leagues, FA Cups, and so much more.

As a striker, I could get individual advice from guys like Henry and Bergkamp, and when I converted to left back, I found myself speaking with Sol Cambell, Ashley Cole, and Martin Keown regularly. Above them, Arsene Wenger did the proper coaching and preaching of the curriculum of style of play that Arsenal fans have came to love.

To me personally, this education helped prepare me in my role as a scout. Don’t get me wrong, these guys also set a bar so incredibly high that I wondered how I could ever find a player that could have broken into a team that went 49 unbeaten, but that’s besides the point. I subconsciously understood what it meant to be an Arsenal player during my first stint at the Club and then was able to apply it to my work as a scout when I returned.

With that said, not all scouts are ex-players and not all ex-players make great scouts. It is a very trust-driven and recommendation oriented business. As a scout, you serve as the eyes and ears of the manager and chief scout that employ you. There has to be a high level of trust and respect, especially when the scout isn’t local and works several time zones away from the actual club.

For those that aren’t ex-players, networking and proving to those in the industry that you know the game and what to look for in a player is key. There are loads of events focused around football networking and even scout-specific forums are held yearly to bring like-minded individuals together to network and discuss the scouting world.

I’ve come across scouts from all over the world now. Some are former legends of the club they now represent, while some seem to be walking, breathing football databases with no link to ever having played the game. Those stories are often just as interesting as the guys who once captained the teams they now scout for. There is generally a recurring theme, however, regardless of the scout’s background – they understand what the manager they work for looks for in a player and they know their region inside and out.

Regardless of past playing history, I can give some advice for breaking into the scouting world:

1: Learn to watch games as a scout, not just as a spectator. Pick a game, pick a player, and watch everything he does in that game. Make notes about his technical ability, his movement off the ball, his contributions when his team are defending, how he reacts to different situations, and everything in between. Really do your best to create a profile of that player based off that one game.

The following week, do it again. Try to watch a player in different environments against different types of opponent. How does that player do when his side are down a goal away from home? Does he go into a shell or does relish those moments? Really understanding a player means watching that player over and over in different circumstances. Take notes and make organized reports.

2: Network the best way you can. Just like any job, networking is huge and can lead to exciting opportunities if done properly. Many will say ‘no’ or fail to even respond, but building relationships locally, nationally, and of course internationally will not only help get your name out there, but also help you understand the landscape even better.

For example, showing a youth team coach you are passionate about the field can be as simple as scouting next week’s opposition and providing a report about that team’s best player. Do it enough times, do it well, and provide value, and you’ll soon begin building trust with that coach. It may not lead to something directly, but you could always ask to use him as a reference if another opportunity emerges elsewhere.

3: Finally, as in any field, stick at it and don’t give up if success doesn’t come immediately. Perhaps starting at a smaller club and proving your worth on a smaller scale can be more valuable than shooting for the bigger clubs right out of the gates.

What matters most in the world of scouting is being on top of your region and always being able to identify players that could help make an impact at your club if brought in. Personally, I was lucky to have my link with the Club because of my time as a player. I’d formed a positive relationship with them that ended up paying off when it was time for me to hang up my boots. Although that connection certainly helped getting me back in front of Arsenal’s technical staff, I had to quickly show that I was competent in what I was doing in what I’ve learned to be a very cut-throat industry.


Danny is writing a series of articles for Untold Arsenal on scouting, and they will appear approximately once every two weeks.  In addition we will be publishing the first volume of Danny’s autobiography in the next couple of months, and you will be able to purchase it through Untold.  Details will follow in a few weeks time.


22 Replies to “How to Become a Football Scout: the first in an exclusive series for Untold by the man who discovered Joel Campbell”

  1. Welcome Danny!

    Very interesting article about a side of the game you don’t hear too much about most of the time. I’m really looking forward to read more of this.

  2. Welcome Danny! Dont think I will ever make it as a scout, but a really interesting read. Must have been amazing to have worked with the legends you mention.
    Good to see Joel Campbell and Zelalem getting game time with their respective clubs. Thought JC had a tough night last night….who didnt, but showed a lot of promise in the Swansea game. Any more such players or prospects that could be coming our way from your neck of the woods?….a region that I imagine will soon become an extrelely fertile breeding ground for the next generations of players.
    Look forward to your future articles.

  3. I am involved in youth football and one thing to note is that the big clubs will have hundreds of scouts scouring local Leagues. Many will be semi-volunteers – might be fans, might get free match tickets or whatnot. Professional academies have an incredible player-churn – a high proportion are discarded every year – and they need to be replaced by the next “big thing”. It is really tough on the kids as the pro clubs aren’t overly concerned whether the child continues or not playing football for pleasure.

  4. Thanks Danny, really enjoyed reading your article and hope to read more soon, Im sure youve got lots of anecdotes you can share with us. My nephew is a sh*t hot goalkeeper,(13 summers) if you want out check him out,drop me a email via Walter/Tony hes already getting a lot of interest-well its worth a try!

  5. Welcome Danny !

    Scouting sounds like job requiring pin point concentration on a specific player and every bit of information around that player. And with the great rise and development of football in USA over the past 5 years or so, I am sure Danny will scout out another player for Arsenal.

    Here is a little happy memory for Danny and the readers alike.

  6. Welcome, Danny! Thanks for Gedion and, especially, Joel.

    I have a specific question regarding scouting: has there been a change in methods of scouting? I’m asking this because of Wenger’s statements regarding Gabriel’s signing where he mentioned Gabby’s statistics. How would you comment the effect of Opta, Squawka, Whoscored etc. on scouting these days? Is there a chance that the naked eye scouting will be a thing for historical books in favour of sites like the aforementioned ones?

    I ask this also because I had read a statistical analysis why Soldado would be a flop at Spuds right after it was announced Spuds would sign him.

    Thank you in advance!

  7. Thanks Danny, and welcome to Untold. I´m particularly excited to read your takes on scouting due to the fact Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have one of the best records in football when it comes to promoting young talent to the first team and even making stars out of players in what didn´t look like their natural position, so getting a glimpse into how exactly players who could be a fit are identified is fantastic. Looking forward to your contributions.

  8. Welcome to Untold, Danny! An interesting report…looking forward to other installments!!

  9. Nice to hear from someone who actually works in football talking about scouting. Thanks Danny for giving your time to Untold.

    I believe Arsenal will bring through lots of young players over time. We should not underestimate the lure we have nor the draw of wanting to develop under Arsene Wenger. Unlike teams like Chelsea, our kids will get a chance because they won’t become circus animals sent out on a perpetual loan tour of European Towns and Cities.

    Good to see someone who knows what they are talking about, educating us on the Areenal scouting system. Makes a change from the Fantasy Football Managers and their Playstations and YouTube videos.

  10. Great initial post Danny……why aren’t there more retired referees taking up scouting. We are very observant and usually excellent readers of the Game. We also know the Laws and how well a player applies them to his or her advantage.

  11. Thanks Danny.
    Just incredibly bad luck on your timing that following a game in which his shortcomings at the top level were exposed, you own up to being the man who scouted Joel Campbell.
    And before you all fall off your high horses to admonish me, my opinion is not based on one game. Actually it would seem that Arsene has been of a similar opinion ( not up to the required standard ) since he has been loaning him out at every opportunity. The only reason he was on the pitch was that he was scraped from bottom of barrel of not particularly significant depth.

  12. Nice article Danny , thanks and welcome to Untold . Am looking forward to your further posts on here. We now get a better perspective and understanding from one who has played the game at the highest level and gone through the system , and now starts the new generation into this cycle.
    Once again thanks.

  13. Welcome, and thanks Danny! Interesting to get an insight into the transfer world. Would be interesting to also hear about third party ownership, know your signings don’t do those types of contracts and don’t expect any names to be mentioned but would be interesting to know a bit more about that if you have heard how that murky world works.

  14. Welcome Danny, we hope you’ll enjoy writing many articles for Untold, and we’ll enjoy reading them just as much.


    In the same mould with Soldado, I read an article on some time ago, before the transfer window, describing why Benteke would not be an improvement to Liverpool. Stats are a tool that, when well used, can be very powerful. Case in point, Roberto Mancini had all the stats based on video tape analysis but couldn’t figure out why ManCity lost the title to United in 2013 – apparently a case of misused stats.

  15. Jaroba

    “since he has been loaning him out at every opportunity”

    So thats your opinion…others may well say that he (Joel) was loaned out due to work-visa problems!

    You are the “expert” though!

  16. But Jabora, the question of whether Joel Campbell is now the player that motivated and excited Danny back then – so much so – to introduce him to the club could be more valid.

    So Danny; what do you see with Joel Campbell…is he the player now fulfilling the potential you first saw in him?

  17. The thing with Joel Campbell is that he’s only really had one full pre-season training at Arsenal, prior to this he’s been either restricted by work visa, on loan or at the world cup. His inclusion last season was probably to gauge where he sits in the Arsenal play style, he got some small game time then got loaned out to Villareal to give him some regular first team action till the summer. He returned, trained and is still integrating as you can see. He probably wasn’t ready for a big game like Bayern but did well against a team like Swansea who are going to make less of communication slip ups. I still think he’s got a lot of room to come good and given some time with the first team will break in, he’s clearly got determination and talent there. Let’s just hope he can transfer it to reality and become something special, lets not forget Coquelin didn’t make it till he was 24 and most people had written him off ever playing for us. Now he’s the first name on the team sheet I bet.

  18. I started scouting for Watford and was there for four years I had a very
    good time there and learnt so much about scouting a player.I then
    moved to a top club and was with them for fifteen years of which most of
    the time was very good, but one thing I have really learnt from my time scouting is not what you know but who you know.

    I had twenty six players signed in my time at the top club but they still
    brought in friends to undermine me which is totally wrong and I have
    since left the club and glad I did.

  19. This is my first real insight into the scouting world, and I’m fascinated.

    Thanks Danny. I’m looking forward to many more articles from you.

  20. hey great post I am a big mufc,chelsea fc,arsenal,liverpool fc,brighton hove albion,reading
    fc,man utd,manchester utd supporter from Holland

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