Lee Devonshire: 'The most frustrating 12 months of my life'

Maidenhead United’s Lee Devonshire says he has endured ‘the most frustrating 12 months of his life’ as the chief scout shone some light on the process of recruitment to the Advertiser this week.

Attracting a player to your club and getting a deal over the line is no easy task at the best of times and the pandemic only made the job more challenging for scouts like Lee in the National League last season.

With all but the final game of last year’s campaign played behind closed doors, Lee had to rely on videos and showreels of players when considering future signings as clubs prevented any outside spectators from attending their matches.

The restrictions have played a part in the making of the Magpies' squad for the 2021/22 season, with the bulk of the players brought over to York Road - such as Kane Ferdinand and Will De Havilland - already familiar at National League level or previously monitored by the club.

“You have probably noticed with our recruitment this year that we’ve signed boys we know at this level,” said Lee.

“Unfortunately, you won’t see too many players like Danilo (Orsi-Dadomo) coming to the club this summer because we haven’t been able to get to the games due to COVID.

“Clubs just weren’t letting us in, and we never let anyone in our place either, so a lot of the recruitment this time around has been judged on video analysis and recommendations.

“Truthfully, it’s been the most frustrating 12 months of my life.

“There is only so much you can see on video, and I think a lot of scouts this year are in the same boat.

“There’s nothing like seeing these boys play live - ordinarily, I would go and watch a player half a dozen times minimum.

“George Wells, for example, is a player we were scouting for the best part of two years.

“It’s a case of when the old man (Alan Devonshire) gives you the go ahead - ‘I think this guy’s time is up now. I’m going to move him on. What have you got for me in that position?’.

“When he says that, I need to be ready to have a list of three or four players that I feel can step up.”

Lee has been operating as chief scout (or ‘head of recruitment’) for the best part of six years at Maidenhead United alongside his father and Magpies boss Alan Devonshire.

During this time, he has built up an illustrious contact book and acquired a sound knowledge of the main players in the business.

“Over the years I’ve made quite a nice list of contacts - people I trust, people I don’t trust,” said Lee.

“The old man and I work well together, and I think that’s very important. Quite often, he will have a player thrown at him and before he even thinks about it, he will run it by me. That’s the kind of relationship we’ve got.

“He trusts me if I tell him to sign someone. It’s unusual because if I went to another club, I might recommend a player but then they might want to send someone else or the gaffer might want to go and see them.

“I don’t really look at myself as just a scout. I’m dealing with agents, working out deals, arranging friendlies, and always observing how our current players are doing.

“I get a bit of stick for it – ‘Why’s our chief scout here at York Road watching us play?’.

“But I need to know first-hand how our current players are performing.

“This year I will probably get out to a lot more games non-Maidenhead because I’ve had a whole year of watching us at York Road.”

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