Former Bristol City striker on his return to the club, scouting and Leeds and Tottenham Hotspur transfers
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Ian Broomfield was a gifted Bristol City striker at the club from 1969 to 1972. As a teenage forward he was selected to train with the England youth squad and Arsenal forward Charlie George was his room-mate.
Unfortunately Broomfield ruptured his Achilles tendon in trials at Lilleshall, the FA’s school of excellence, with the England youth team, and after spells playing at Stockport County and in South Africa, aged 26, he left football to work in the police force.
The Bristolian, who made 28 appearances for Bristol City scoring twice, remained involved in the beautiful game however: as a football scout, no doubt using his detective skills gained earlier from working for Greater Manchester Police.
He rose up to become chief football scout at Aston Villa, Leeds United, Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur.
He worked under Harry Redknapp at Pompey, worked closely with David O’Leary at Leeds and Villa and even now remains a senior scout for Spurs.
We spoke to the former Robins forward about his return to BS3, Bristol City’s Stars of the 1960s event and much more, including helping to create some of English football’s most successful teams of the last 25 years.
“As a Bristol boy and Bristolian, first of all to see how it’s changed here [at Ashton Gate], I have to say the way the club has welcomed us and what they’ve done for us is far more than what we expected,” Broomfield told BristolWorld on ahead of the 1-1 draw with Peterborough United earlier this month.
“The Robins High Performance Centre has taken the club on to a new level.
“We trained out in the car park on the front of the stadium and sometimes we’d go across Ashton Gate to the car park over there but that was it. Either out the front or on Ashton Park [Greville Smyth Park].
“We had no facilities. As young apprentices, before we did anything we had to do training we had to sweep the stadium and clean the boots.
“It’s top quality [up at Failand]. Under the Lansdown family, it’s taken the club to a different level now. It’ll give them a bigger chance to progress,” he added.
Broomfield grew up watching the Robins and at 13 saw the great John Atyeo (“for a player of his size he was so graceful, he was powerful”), as well as other top talents such as Brian Clark and Bobby Williams.
City greats John Galley and Chris Garland were a part of the side that Broomfield played in. But the game was tougher back then, with bumpy pitches, no VAR, the tackle from behind still allowed and fewer bookings.
“When I played here I can remember some of the tackles that went in. The centre-halves took no prisoners,” he explained.
“I remember playing here one game, I was only about 18, against an experienced centre-half and he put his hand underneath my arm and ripped my armpit hair. Of course, the first thing I did was turn around and smack him.
“You couldn’t get away with that now,” says Broomfield.
Injury struck as Broomfield’s career was “messed up” after his injury away with England, and his career was then stop-start. He moved on to Southampton and later to play abroad. It soon became decision time.
With two young boys to fend for, more regular work was needed and Broomfield joined the CID and Serious Crime Unit of Greater Manchester Police, even working in Northern Ireland with the RUC, helping to track down and imprison murderers and other serious criminals across a 10-year career.
Perhaps it was learning skills such as surveillance during that period that enabled Broomfield to thrive as a football scout later too.
Certainly the ability to dig into private lives would have been of benefit, along with networking, and Broomfield later got back into football via a part-time scouting role with former side the Saints.
“I was very lucky that in 1988 I met Nicky Holmes, a former Southampton captain, and he had just become chief scout,” explains Broomfield to BristolWorld.
“He asked me if I would like to do a bit of scouting for him. From then on, and in 1995 I left and became a chief scout.
“I worked with Howard Wilkinson at Leeds, I was chief scout for George Graham and even director of football for David O’Leary at Leeds.
“I then went to Aston Villa with David. We built that very good team at Leeds United back then [who reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2001]. I helped bring Rio Ferdinand to the club, Olivier Dacourt, Michael Bridges and Eirik Bakke.”
Broomfield went on to explain about his further experiences in the game, including helping Spurs and Pompey.
The pitfalls of recruitment are many so anything you can do to minimise the risk of a transfer can help a club. Maybe Bristol City should ask his advice.
“When you’re signing players you never know what to expect, especially at Leeds. We were buying bronze to turn into gold,” he said.
“So we were buying young players who had potential. I went to join Harry Redknapp at Portsmouth as chief scout and we built that team which won the FA Cup and got Portsmouth into Europe.
“And then in 2009 I went with Harry to Tottenham Hotspur where I was chief scout/director of football,” he explained.
We discuss the merits of ‘eyes-on scouting’ in the digital era, when match statistics are deep and plentiful, and video footage available from the world over.
Broomfield remains a senior scout at Spurs and only last week discussed the club’s transfer targets with the Lilywhites’ managing director of football.
“It’s most important. You have to embrace the new era, the analyst and so on. They’re terrific help,” he says.
“It’s an extra tool to what you’re seeing, but you can’t beat going and watching a player and putting your eyes on a player.
“You see more than watching it on a video and on clips. It’s still important.
“I’m still at Tottenham now. I stepped down from my role as chief scout because I’ve always kept my family in Manchester. But I still go to Europe a lot and working in this country, my title now is ‘senior scout’,” he adds.
Broomfield has one last anecdote for all football clubs to abide by, whether Championship aspirational side Bristol City, to Premier League giant, to Champions League contender.
Do scout reports and opinions carry weight these days? Talk returns to Bristol City and a famous Robins talent-spotter.
“Very much so. I know the manager at Tottenham and we have Fabio [Paratici] there who used to be at Juventus. I was with him on Monday and we were looking at all the reports.
“He takes in every report and what the analyst has sent him and when they sit down, the chairman likes to read the reports. Daniel Levy will want to know everything about the players.
“And sometimes you can’t get everything right. One of my mentors in football was the old chief scout here Tony Collins, who eventually went to Leeds United as chief scout for Don Revie and later Ron Atkinson and Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
“It was Tony who took me up north. And he always said that the best scout, and the best manager and the best chairman are the ones who make the least mistakes.
“If you think at what Tony did at this club, Bristol City, at one stage we had the England school boy captain Geoff Merrick, we had the Scottish school boy captain and Gerry Ingram, Welsh school boy captain, all at Bristol City. It’s incredible what he achieved.
“Harry Redknapp has a great saying that if you’ve got good players then you don’t have to worry. It’s all about the players. Sometimes it’s about the coaching but if you’ve got good players then it does help,” he adds with a smile.
The power of football scouting in effect.