Scouting can be frustrating but also enjoyable and occasionally incredibly satisfying. Many times you will see a player, particularly a young one, who you feel has the ability to justify a recommendation.
What you don’t know initially is if his attitude, character and mentality are good enough.
All you can go on is the evidence before you, your experience and the views and information of your contacts in the game. But special talent stands out a mile and over the course of almost five years of writing in Sportsmail, I think I have managed to get a few right.
Here is a team (4-3-3) and three substitutes of young prospects I identified during the course of my travels up and down the country...
Our Secret Scout has unearthed a host of talents who made it to the very top of the game
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford
Spotted: February 2016 playing for Sunderland academy. Now: Everton and England.
What I wrote: ‘Athletic, confident… a shot stopper with quick reflexes…’
What I think now: Yes, he is always confident and he can be spectacular. But I still think he can get excitable at times during games.
Right-back: Ainsley Maitland-Niles
Spotted: At Ipswich aged 18, on loan from Arsenal. Now: Arsenal and England.
I wrote: ‘He reminds me of Ray Parlour, Arsenal’s former midfield grafter…’
Now: I wondered if he had enough subtlety in possession but he has stuck to his guns. He has had some problems but has developed into a fine utility player. The Ray Parlour comparison was in relation to his energy levels.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has risen to the England team after impressing for his club Arsenal
Centre-back: Adam Webster
Spotted: Another at Ipswich, this time in September 2016. Now: Brighton.
I wrote: ‘He has ability, vision and skill. Makes a pass rather than lumping it forward. Reminds me of John Stones.’
Now: Had the tendency to make mistakes back then but over the years has proved his quality to reach the Premier League.
Centre-back: Chris Mepham
Spotted: Playing for Brentford in February 2018. Now: Wales and Bournemouth.
What I wrote: ‘All the necessary physical characteristics. Tall and an easy mover.’
Now: He developed under quality management by Dean Smith and made a rapid rise to impress Eddie Howe. He has had some injury setbacks. There is more improvement to come.
Chris Mepham emerged quickly under Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, impressing last season
Left-back: Ben Chilwell
Spotted: For Leicester age-group teams as a teenager in March 2016. Now: Chelsea and England.
I wrote: ‘Nothing would deter me from recommending him. He will make a top-level career.’
Now: Captain of the youth team when I saw him, he was so comfortable going forward — and still is. An obvious future player.
Right midfield: James Maddison
Spotted: Playing in Norwich’s midfield in November 2017. Now: Leicester and England.
I wrote: ‘He first caught my eye at Coventry and is flourishing as a 20-year-old support player. Confident, with a football brain.’
Now: I never forgot him after first seeing him at Coventry. Plays like he has eyes in