Blackburn unveil new-look recruitment team after making three hires

Left to right: Paul Aladejare, Andy Watson, Tom Sutton. Hannah Roberts, Gus Williams, Luke Griffin, Michael Cribley and Lewis Evans

Left to right: Paul Aladejare, Andy Watson, Tom Sutton. Hannah Roberts, Gus Williams, Luke Griffin, Michael Cribley and Lewis Evans

BLACKBURN ROVERS have unveiled their new-look recruitment team after making three appointments in recent months.

Luke Griffin has joined from Hibernian as the club's Head of European Scouting, with Luke Griffin arriving from Swansea City to take on the new position of Head of Data Scouting.

Both roles were advertised on TGG Jobs and the new recruits started at the Lancashire club in October. Meanwhile, Paul Aladejare has joined the club from Arsenal, where he has been Regional Scout Co-ordinator for the last two years, and will start work in January.

Head of Player Recruitment Gus Williams, who arrived at the club in July from the Football Association of Wales, said: “The investment in staff has been fundamental really, because if we’re recruiting the best on the pitch, then you need to recruit the best off the pitch as well.

“It’s been a long and robust process, but we now feel that we’ve got a more bona fide and structured department, which is what the club needed. We’ve got a Head of European Scouting, Head of UK Scouting, Head of Data Scouting and a Head of Emerging Talent, and all of those particular individuals will be complementing each other and working collaboratively to ensure that we do our very best to get the right players for the right positions into the club.”

At the start of the summer, Rovers’ first-team recruitment department consisted of only Tom Sutton (Head of UK Scouting) and Director of Football Gregg Broughton. Now Sutton says they have, "eight part-time scouts, three leads, a Head of Recruitment, a Head of Emerging Talent and two data consultants."

Head of Academy Recruitment Michael Cribley says there are 15 scouts for the Academy, with hiring underway for a further eight.

These are the lead members of Rovers’ new-look recruitment team, reporting into Williams (quotes from Blackburn's official website):

Luke Griffin (Head of European Scouting)

Recruitment analyst at Hibernian for just over a year before joining Rovers in October. Had previously worked as a scout for hometown club, Cheltenham Town.

“The role is obviously focusing on the European market, which is something the club hasn’t focused on too much in the past,” he says. “When you’re very UK-based, you’re competing in a small pond with everyone else for the same players.

"By expanding our horizons into Europe we can find better value, more options and players that others may not know about, and that’s how you progress as a club. We’re a one-man department at the moment, but it’s something that we’re looking to build up over time.”

Lewis Evans (Head of Data Scouting)

Worked at Swansea City for 16 months, latterly as first-team recruitment analyst, before joining Rovers in October. Role is to oversee the collation and translation of quantitative and qualitative data to assist with the identification of players.

“I basically use data to try and identify players that we haven’t been able to look at due to resources and also use data to back up our opinions on players,” he says. “We will put presentations together for the management team and for the Board, and use the data to show that the underlying numbers agree with our opinions.

Tom Sutton (Head of UK Scouting)

Grew up in Blackburn and did work experience at the club 10 years ago. Returned full-time in the summer, having been a first-team scout at Stoke City and Oxford United before that.

“We’ve been changing our structures and implementing different processes to adapt to how we want to work as a team and we’ve been bringing in more part-time scouts, dotted around the country,” he says.

“We’ve gone from the summer, where at one point it was just myself and Gregg, to now having eight part-time scouts, three leads, a Head of Recruitment, a Head of Emerging Talent and two data consultants. So it’s been a big change, but a really positive change.”

Paul Aladejare (Head of Emerging Talent)

Started his career as a voluntary scout at Dagenham & Redbridge and went on to work at Reading, Crystal Palace, Leicester, Brighton, Barnet (where he was Head of Academy Recruitment) and Arsenal, where he was Regional Scout Co-ordinator for the last two years.

“My role is to identify that emerging talent, which starts from Under-16s and goes up to U21s,” he says. “That could be players who are already playing first-team football in League One, League Two or the lower leagues, who I believe could potentially play in our first team and propel the club forward.

“We’ve got an amazing project here. It’s very rare that you find 17, 18 and 19-year-olds playing regular first-team football.”

Michael Cribley (Head of Academy Recruitment)

Was Lead Foundation Phase Coach at Rovers for six years before becoming Local Recruitment Scouting Manager at Everton in July 2015. Returning to Rovers in his current role in November 2021.

He says: "It helps massively when you’re talking to prospective players who you’re trying to bring to the club, when you mention that there’s a 17-year-old, an 18-year-old and a 19-year-old all playing games for the first team.

“All clubs say they have a pathway, but they don’t really have anything to back it up. It’s an easier sell at Blackburn Rovers. We try to ensure that we have a strong emphasis and a strong network around Lancashire, so we’ve recruited some scouts locally and we’ve increased the number of players from the Lancashire area, but we’re looking for the best, so you do need to branch out across the North West.

“We’ve got 15 scouts at the moment, but we’re currently recruiting another eight, which will enable us to increase our scouting network and our coverage of grassroots and watching other Academies.”

Hannah Roberts (Head of Data - Consultant)

Started working in football eight years ago as a data scientist at Everton’s Academy. Then became a freelance contractor for clients including the Premier League and Belgian FA, prior to starting her consultancy role with Rovers two years ago.

She says: “My work spans the Academy, Sports Science, Analysis and Recruitment departments, supporting staff with their data and technology strategies, as well as implementation and training needs, so that they can improve their skills and drive their departments forward.

“The main remit is to help each department make better use of data and information. In terms of recruitment, we will have data about players coming from up to 10 different sources. One of the key challenges is how do you look at all that information in a simple way, so that it can be communicated effectively across the department, so the Board can look at it within the click of a button and see just the level of detail they want to see.

“My role is to build and develop some software that can help them do that, but also develop an underlying technological infrastructure that makes all that easier.”

Andy Watson (Data Recruitment Consultant)

Born and raised in Blackburn and a Rovers fan. Has been working independently on data in football for the last five years and now works one day a week alongside Evans and Roberts.

He says: “The club are trying to put together a system in which we can have an overarching view of interesting players from all over the world that might be able to help the team to improve.

“My role, and the role of the data team, is to make sure that we’re picking up on all of the players that might be of interest and assessing them against our current group. It’s about looking at specific players who fit specific profiles, because we know the style of football we want to play.

“Whilst my role is only one day a week, the contribution that I can make is hopefully massively worthwhile, as was the case in the summer with the help I provided in identifying and profiling Dom Hyam, who has really hit the ground running for us.”

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