When Gary Brabin joined The New Saints in April 2021 he faced a challenge any sporting director at a football club loves – but one with a unique set of obstacles.

The top-flight Welsh club needed new players recruited straight away. Great fun if you’re playing fantasy football, but far trickier at a new club and in the middle of a pandemic, which made going to watch players more difficult than usual.

Fortunately Brabin had a plan and, 11 months later, The New Saints (TNS) have been crowned champions of the Cymru Premier for the first time in three years after dominating the division. 

“As soon as I came into this role, I realized we had to add some new players to the squad,” says Brabin. “It was difficult at the time with the pandemic and a lot of clubs not letting players into the grounds. So it started with who we knew already; players we'd worked with or seen before.

“But we needed more knowledge of players – and the best way for us to do that was through Wyscout. It's been so useful in helping us all form an opinion on a player.”

Perennial winners in the Welsh Premier League, since the 2001–02 season TNS have finished either as champions or runners-up.

When Brabin mentions “us all” he demonstrates exactly why Wyscout is so important. One scout or member of the coaching staff can go and see a player and have an opinion, but at TNS a team of five need to agree a player is right for the club – and Wyscout is a way they can all study a footballer, as it contains video analysis and advanced data on hundreds of thousands of players worldwide.

“This time last year, we had to throw everything at it,” says Brabin of the recruitment drive. “Because we were preparing for the end of the season, ready to go for the start of our European campaign. We had to act quickly and there were a lot of players mentioned by the [scouting] team. So there were a lot of hours spent on Wyscout, forming an opinion on those players – and then we all relayed our feedback and, if everyone gave it the green light, we’d pursue that player.”

Gary Brabin - Sporting Director of The New Saints.

Despite the time pressures, the system Brabin oversaw worked superbly. One of the key players needed was a striker – and the club’s eventual signing, Declan McManus, is the division’s top scorer having netted 21 goals in 25 league games by the time TNS sealed the league title with a thrilling 3-3 draw.

“The hardest players to sign!” says Brabin on strikers, knowing that every club is on the lookout for a centre-forward who can bring goals to a side. Specifically, Brabin and the scouting team at TNS had key individual functions they needed their new striker to fulfill.

“We were looking for someone who scores goals, someone who was young enough, someone who was technically good on the ball, and someone who had ambition,” he says. “We went through the list of players, but the one that stood out was Declan McManus, who we ended up signing.

“A lot of that credit goes to our usage of Wyscout. At the time you couldn't go and watch games live, so a lot of our work was done on Wyscout. Using that, we were able to watch him and form an opinion and collectively – between the five of us – it was 100% that we wanted to pursue and sign this player."

McManus, a 27-year-old striker who came through the youth setup at Aberdeen, had played in the Scottish Premiership and briefly in the English league. But he had no experience of the Cymru Premier, so intense analysis was required to see if his skills would translate well for TNS. It worked seamlessly.

TNS used Wyscout to find successful striker signing Declan McManus.

Brabin has an extensive football background to draw on. The Liverpool-born midfielder played 375 professional games for clubs including Blackpool, Hull and Doncaster, before spending two seasons at TNS. He then went into coaching, managing clubs such as Luton, Tranmere and Cambridge before returning to TNS to take on his current sporting director role.

With that wide-ranging experience, Brabin has a clear view on how to search for a player who fills an exact brief. “We target positions, but also a specific type of player,” he says. “So if you're looking for a left-back, it could be someone who's more attack-minded, or he has to be told to defend set plays, or he has to have good quality on the ball. We break it down into what we need in that position.”

Wyscout is vital in comparing and filtering players. “Since I've come in, we've set up a structure of how we're doing our scouting. The scouts will be going out, building a database of players. 

We may target one position or one player – and then everyone will get to work on Wyscout. So if I see a left-back that fits the profile, then first and foremost, we'll watch him on Wyscout. And if we like that, then we'll try and go and watch him live or keep monitoring him. But firstly we need feedback from the others involved. And the best way to do that is Wyscout.”

Screenshot of Wyscout interface on a laptop
With video and data from over 900 competitions and 550,000 players, Wyscout is the platform for football and scouting recruitmnet.

On top of this, Wyscout helps Brabin stay on top of the tactics other teams are adopting. “As well as watching players, I'm very interested to see what other teams are doing,” he says. 

“Just seeing systems of play, how coaches or managers are setting up; watching players in those systems. It helps getting an overview of how other clubs are playing.

“So it's not just about recruiting players, it's also about re-educating myself and keeping up to date with what teams are doing. I try to get to as many live games as I can, but it's always great when you've got Wyscout, where – if it’s a Saturday or a Tuesday night and two or three games coincide – I can relax and watch another the following day.”

“Wyscout saves so much time, and it can save you so much money". Gary Brabin - Sporting Director, The New Saints.

TNS will always face a challenge when it comes to recruitment, Brabin accepts, because the English Football League is there to tempt players with the dream of one day reaching the Premier League. To counter that, the Welsh champions get to play in the Champions League from the first round. Next season, that means TNS.

The rapid recruitment drive put together last year by Brabin and those around him has paid off and the sporting director will continue to rely on Wyscout to be a vital part of that set-up.

“Wyscout saves so much time, and it can save you so much money,” he says. “A lot of our work is done on this. It's easy enough going out and watching games – and I think it's always important to go and see games live. But you can work smarter if you have Wyscout with you.

“As a scout or a coach, you can only put yourself in one game at a time. Even when scouts are going to games to form an opinion, it still needs to be backed up or followed up. And Wyscout is the perfect tool for us to do that.”

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