Patience, planning & productivity: 'Secrets' behind Brighton's success
Written by Training Ground Guru — April 19, 2023
BRIGHTON Technical Director David Weir appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday night to talk about the secrets of his club's success.
The Scot didn't reveal any quick fixes or silver bullets, which may have been disappointing for some. What shone through instead was a commitment to long-term thinking, having a clear identity and making evidence-based decisions.
You can listen to the full episode of the Monday Night Club HERE and read an edited transcript of Weir's interview with Mark Chapman and his panel below.
STICKING TO A LONG-TERM PLAN
David Weir: It’s probably different from most clubs, just in terms of stability and the people - particularly the ownership and Board - having been in place for a while.
People (in football) often want success quickly and that’s understandable - people just want to win a lot of the time and don’t care how they get there.
Actually having a long-term plan and vision - something they stick to and don’t react when maybe short-term things aren’t going so well - was really appealing for me, in terms of being at a club where there is the chance to build something.
Tony (Bloom) the owner is a Brighton supporter and has a vision for what he wants the club to be. Paul (Barber) is a very experienced Chief Executive who knows his way around football and understands what Tony’s vision is. Paul, along with the Board, implement that on a day-to-day basis, in terms of off and on the field.
There are a lot of good people at Brighton.
The strategy is always to try and get better and improve. The club vision is to be a top-10 Premier League, a top-four WSL club and that’s where we all try to get to. We managed to get there last year, which was the first time we had managed to do that, but we still want to get better.
HAVING A CLEAR IDENTITY
We kind of know what we are looking for, whether that’s coaches or players.
When Graham (Potter) left, we weren’t expecting that and we had to react. But when we chose a new Head Coach we did it within our parameters in terms of what we wanted and what we thought was important to us.
Although Graham and Roberto are different, they do have similar characteristics - in terms of how they want to play, being coaches and developers, being willing to play young players.
We are very process driven, very evidence based. Tony’s background is data and we try and use as much evidence as we can to come to good decisions. We are not saying we have all the answers, but we do have an identity and we know how we want to work.
We try and be as evidence based as we can. Bringing anyone new into the building creates flux and change, but having your processes is important and also what you’re bringing them into.
SCOUTING AND RECRUITMENT
We don’t have people in every country, it’s not how we work, and people would be surprised by how small our scouting network and recruitment department is. It’s people that know the process, that are active, that understand what we are and what we are looking for and are able to react pretty quickly to situations and find solutions.
There is a live element, a video element, a data element: there are many different facets that play their part and you have to establish a lot of trust between the players, the agents and the families as well.
You try and do your homework on the people, both objectively and subjectively. You can do your homework in terms of how they act on the pitch, in terms of people they have played with and been coached by.
Everybody knows who the best players are and to a degree a lot of people are shopping in the same market, but getting the right fit for your dressing room and environment and somebody who will add to what you’re doing is really important.
It’s collecting data, information, I don’t think there’s any shortcuts and it’s a continual process.
You are building a profile of the people and the player. The more you watch and the more information you get, the less likelihood you have of making the wrong choices. You have got to go into the detail and it’s time consuming.
We are fortunate, we have a well-resourced scouting department, with good people who know what they are doing. You just have to trust those people, allied to the data the club uses and other clubs use, to try and simplify and streamline that process to give you the best chance.
You’ve got to have a reputation. Maybe Alexis playing for us and getting an opportunity in the Premier League might have influenced Julio Enciso’s decision and certainly influenced Facundo Buonanotte’s decision (to sign for Brighton). Getting a reputation in South America for playing young South American players is helpful and you have to the staff to go and facilitate that and make it happen.
Brighton, especially now, is a very attractive place to come.
PATIENCE AND DEVELOPMENT
Alexis Mac Allister came into our building and wasn’t a roaring success to start with, but over a period of time and acclimatisation we could give him a chance with coaches who got to know him and played him in different positions. Eventually he has achieved what he’s achieved.
The environment you put them in, the stability and patience you have is also really important. It’s how long you give people to be successful as well. The environment at Brighton is a really good one, in terms of the people in the key areas. They are good people, know what their job is and how to do it.
And also what’s really important is the group of players you’re bringing a coach in to work with. We are really lucky in terms of building a squad pf players that are really solid, are good people and are obviously good players as well. They will listen to a Head Coach and their ideas and try and implement them.
That is really important in terms of giving a Head Coach the right raw materials to work with. The people you bring in have to fit what you want as an organisation.
We’ve had Kaoru Mitoma, Moises Caicedo, Alexis Mac Allister who have all been loans at some period, but it’s very individualised and ultimately the manager makes the decision on whether the player can affect his group at that moment. It’s position based as well, whether you need that position, and there has to be a pathway.
GIVING OPPORTUNITIES TO YOUTH
You have to have an opportunity for that player to get on the pitch. We don’t have a massive squad. When Adam Lallana got injured, it opened up opportunities for Julio (Enciso), for Evan Ferguson, and you have to have coaches and clubs who are prepared to play young players and have a pathway, whereby you are not blocked by senior player after senior player and there is an opportunity for young players to actually get on the pitch.
You can say what you want, but ultimately it’s what you do that’s more important. We have shown we will play young players in the Premier League.
(As you can see on the right, Brighton are top in the Premier League for homegrown minutes this season. The data has been collected by the CIES and homegrown - or as they call it 'club trained' - is defined as any player who has been with the said club for three years or longer between the ages of 15 and 21).