The Nowhere Men Paperback – 12 Jun 2014
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"Michael Calvin charts the evolution of the sports’ scouts from chaotic beginnings to Moneyball-inspired analysis, and is enough to make you pay close attention when you next pass a kids’ kickabout in the park" (Shortlist)
"‘Calvin’s book is excellent, a highly readable insight into the slog and grind of assessing talent.’" (Tottenham On My Mind)
"One of the ‘50 Best Sports Books Ever Written
In The Nowhere Men, Mike Calvin somehow manages to make the job of football scout sound like the most romantic existence imaginable. It also sounds bleak and deeply lonely. It is a fascinating insight into an often misunderstood and under-represented part of the sport, revealing the hours, dedication and struggles of men who love football and don’t know what they’d do without it." (Daily Telegraph)
"A magnificent book, full of extraordinary characters and beautifully told" (Rob Bagchi Guardian)
"There’s a strong contender for the William Hill Sports Book Prize in Michael Calvin’s The Nowhere Men, a book revealing the hidden lives of football scouts." (The Bookseller)
About the Author
Michael Calvin is one of the UK’s most versatile sportswriters, having worked in more than 80 countries, covering seven summer Olympics, and six World Cup finals. He was named Sportswriter of the Year for his despatches as a crew member in a round the world yacht race, and has twice been named Sports Reporter of the Year. He is currently chief sports writer with the Independent on Sunday, and has held similar positions at the Daily Telegraph, Times and Mail on Sunday. His last book, Family: Life Death and Football, was shortlisted in the 2011 Sports Book Awards. It was a critically-acclaimed study of a season embedded at Millwall, one of English football’s most notorious clubs.
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Calvin's book examines diametrically opposite end of the industry; the scouts who try to identify the talent and put them on the
first rung of the ladder. It is an almost thankless task done by a sump of has been managers, players and never-have-beens.
It is untouched by glamour of any kind.
The memoirs of ex-players are really quite samey; read one - Simon Hughes': The Men in White Suits is good - and then read this and you'll have things covered.
Superb and criminally underrated - buy it now.
I first came across the book on a display table in a well known book chain. When, twenty minutes later, my partner asked me where I had been, I realised that I should be buying the book rather than obstructing the aisle.
I have been delighted with my purchase, and would recommend it as an informative read for those who do not believe that talented Premier League footballers emerge from the cupboard beneath the stairs.
It's a fascinating insight into the world of scouting, and more importantly, the people who give so much, for so little, and are being marginalised more and more, as football becomes richer and richer and attempts to become more risk adverse.
It's a book that for me started slowly, with good reason. It builds characters which comes to fruition halfway through as you feel as though you know the main characters (I think I can almost visualise Mel and his son Jamie Johnson).
Overall I found the book to boil down to the age old battle, between art and science. The art comes from the traditional scout, who can watch a player time and time again, and their "gut" will tell them if they are top quality (take the story about Rocastle as a perfect example) while the science element comes from the data analysts, the new boys, the "geeks".
It provides a brilliant balance, and while I feel Michael errs towards the traditional scout as his favourite, he essentially gives good arguments for both.
In the end, I know a lot of people who would enjoy reading this book. I don't think it's necessarily one for the "Championship Manager" generation, but rather those who feel they understand the intricacies of football, but after reading this, will probably admit, myself included, they haven't got a clue.
A thoroughly brilliant holiday read and I would easily read another of Michael's books in a heartbeat.