Michael Baggaley column: Stoke City technical director Mark Cartwright searches the world for Potters' talent
MARK Cartwright’s job description isn’t quite ‘World Domination’ but it does include a search for talent across the globe.
The 40-year-old is Stoke City’s new technical director, appointed to help the Potters compete with rival Premier League clubs who already have world-wide scouting networks.
It’s no small task, but former goalkeeper and football agent Cartwright is convinced the plans can bear fruit.
He said: “There are thousands of players out there, so we want to make sure we are not missing out on somebody that we should really, as a Premier League club, know about.
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“We are setting things up so that we will have trusted people all across the world.
“That will mean Stoke City are getting the very best players that suit us. We can then do further due diligence and decide if it is something we want to pursue.
“We are not going to go out and buy ten foreign players tomorrow.
“But you pay a premium for players in England and you might be able to find someone younger and better for cheaper.”
Cartwright is absolutely clear here, the decision on which players to buy rests with Tony Pulis.
However, the technical director works with the manager to identify players he might be interested in.
For example, there’s not much point in scouts delivering a list of recommendations who don’t fit the hard-working profile of a typical Pulis signing.
Cartwright added: “Everyone knows they are going to get a tough game when they play Stoke. Every player is honest and hard-working and that is an identity we should keep.
“All we are trying to do now is keep the identity but, technically and ability-wise, try to move to that next level.
“I am not saying it is going to be an easy task, but the players are out there, we just have to find them.
“But once you have that you have to find out if the mentality is there as well.
“We did research on one player in January after liking him. It turned out he had been arrested for having a marijuana farm.
“You come across others who, for example, have head-butted youth-team players in training. So, the character isn’t there.
“If you were spending £5m on a house you would do everything you could to make sure it is perfect. That is what we have to do.”
Cartwright stresses that looking at foreign markets does not mean Stoke should abandon the British and Irish core of their side.
He also says that, just because Stoke have signed Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea from the MLS in the last 12 months, this doesn’t mean they will be focusing all their overseas efforts on the United States.
He said: “The majority of the athletes in America are strong, hard working and they fit the mould of the club.
“But it is a fresh market and players are still developing.
“Are there the amount of players coming out of America that there are coming out of France, Germany, Spain and Italy? No chance. But it is somewhere we have to keep a close eye on and we have done well in that market so far.”
Cartwright’s role will naturally involve him dealing with agents, something he is well prepared for having been an agent himself for nine years before accepting the job at Stoke.
He’s spent his career in football and his playing highlights include winning promotion from League Two with Brighton under Micky Adams in 2001.
He also represented Wrexham and Shrewsbury in the Football League, but was forced to give up full-time football through injury at 31.
He said: “You live in a bubble when you are involved in football and when that bubble bursts it is a whole different story.
“You start looking for jobs and think you are asking for a reasonable salary.
“But in lower league football you can pick up £30,000, £40,000 or £50,000 a year and in real life those jobs are hard to come by.”
He coached at Scottish League side Livingston, then managed Leek Town while establishing himself as an agent, a career which would eventually lead to him joining Festival-Park based firm Beswicks.
He said: “You start at the bottom and work your way up and, if you are not prepared to work hard you are not going to get the benefits.
“So, I would be out watching players and games seven days a week and worked 24 hours a day. My phone bill every month was more than my mortgage.”
He’s not going to save much on that phone bill now he’s checking out players from across the globe.
Stoke’s new technical director had only been in the job for three weeks when the January transfer window opened, but his background as a reputable agent at least prepared him for some tactics from the less scrupulous representatives who approached the club.
He said: “In January I think some of them forgot I had actually been an agent.
“They were doing things and I was thinking ‘he’s not your player’.
“As the financial stakes get bigger, the dirtier it can get. You have to keep your morals, stay strong and not get sucked into anything you don’t need to get involved in.”
You do, however, try to bring in talent from across the world, although that will be easier said that done against fierce competition from rival Premier League clubs.
Cartwright added: “Arsene Wenger has been brilliant at finding a player abroad for £500,000 and selling them for millions.
“Now every club is out there trying to do the same thing.
“Wigan Athletic are travelling the world to look at players, so are Fulham.
“We have to find that player who fits our mould before somebody else finds him.”