“I kept seeing my friends get released. They had the ability to play in the lower leagues, but they didn’t have an agent, weren’t really connected and they’d fall out of love with football. That’s where the energy to create the app came from.”
You may remember Febian Brandy, who spent over a decade at Manchester United progressing through the academy system alongside the likes of Fraizer Campbell, Darron Gibson and Ryan Shawcross.
Now he is using that experience to help a new generation of talent through a scouting app called Skouted.
The Skouted app explained
The app allows players of all levels, from grassroots through to professionals, to upload their in-game footage, which is then viewed by scouts who sign up to the free service.
Since its launch in August, the app has been downloaded more than 5,300 times globally, with just under a thousand of the users being female and about 500 of them scouts.
Along with co-founder Raj Sharma, 30-year-old Brandy envisages a future where clubs use technology to make scouting more efficient.
“We want to be the link between grassroots and professional football, trying to bring them all together,” he said.
“I’d say we’ve probably got between 200 and 300 players on trial globally within around three months.”
According to the English Football League (EFL), 52% of players in the 2017-19 apprentice scheme cohort received professional contracts or extended apprenticeships from clubs within the English lower divisions, a slight increase on the 49% reported in 2014.
Student makes the grade in Finland
One such success story is Tope Fadahunsi, a 20-year-old architecture student at Loughborough University.
After his release from Watford aged 16, he spent several seasons in the lower leagues before discovering the app this year.
Within a week he was contacted by Finnish professional side Kemi City FC, travelled to Scandinavia, earned a contract and helped the club win promotion to the Veikkausliiga top division.
“It was an odd experience at first because the sun never set! A bit of a weird one to get used to,” Fadahunsi told BBC Sport.
“The football is quite technical – it’s been an enjoyable experience. The connections that I’ve made off the back of my time in Finland has led to interest by both Ghana and Nigeria Under 21s.”
Brandy says the app has already had a positive impact on the international stage, with players from China on trial at MLS or United Soccer League (USL) teams and players from the Philippines placed with clubs in China.
That has left a lasting impression on key national figures – and Scott Cooper is one.
Following spells as a coach at Leicester City’s academy and for England Under-15s, his career took off with two of Thailand’s biggest sides, Buriram United and Muangthong United. He is currently head coach of the Philippines.
“We’ve got a lot of players using Skouted, and it’s helping us vastly in identifying players that have Filipino lineage,” Cooper explained.
“Some players I have searched for at amateur level have potential to make a career out of football, but haven’t got the connections.
“If you can scout 300 to 400 players by going through criteria searches, it saves time and money with finding players of all levels – those hidden gems.”
Skouted FC showcase game
Brandy’s next endeavour is a showcase game on 6 December in Manchester, when a team including several current professionals will play Rochester City at Hyde United’s Ewan Fields Stadium in a match open to the public.
He advertised the game on social media and was inundated.
“Two or three days after I had about 50 players emailing, messaging – how do we be part of this? I had managers, agents, grassroots managers all saying ‘we want to be a part of this’.”
One member of the Skouted FC team will be another former United graduate, John Cofie, a 26-year-old who’s ventured as far as Thailand and Greece after featuring in the 2011 FA Youth Cup winning side alongside Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.
“Obviously the world is changing now and you can do everything and anything on your phone,” Cofie said.
“Managers these days want to Wikipedia [you] or have your agent tell you about them, but the stats on there are not legit.
“For them to go on to see who’s available, follow them up and go to watch them after contacting them through the app, I think it’s a really good idea.”
What does the future hold?
Though a new platform, Brandy has big ambitions for his team, which includes Sharma and Harjot Singh, who leads a team of six developers.
“I know football obviously, so we’re working in that area, but we have a great blueprint for other things – Skouted tennis, Skouted American football, Skouted music – everything,” he added.
“That’s the plan, and we’re on the right path with good people and governing bodies behind us.”