CHANGE is on the horizon for English football – and former Blackburn Rovers chief scout Mike Rigg will be at the forefront of it.
The 44-year-old will start his position as the FA’s new head of talent identification in January.
Working primarily alongside the FA’s director of elite development Dan Ashworth and England under 21 coach Gareth Southgate, Rigg’s role will be wide-ranging but one that reflects his vast and varied experience.
In partnership with key stakeholders like the Premier League and the Football League, it will be his responsibility to identify talent at all age groups – in both the men’s and women’s game – who will be able to fit into the new system the FA will formulate for football in England.
In many ways Rigg’s career has come full circle.
After starting out in the Football in the Community schemes of Chester City and Wrexham he spent six years at the FA of Wales, where he struck up an alliance with former Rovers boss Hughes.
But Rigg – who went on to work for Sheffield Wednesday, Rovers and Manchester City, where he was behind some of the biggest transfers in British football history – believes his new job will be something entirely different.
He said: “Getting an opportunity to work for the FA is incredible.
“I’m very fortunate to have worked in an FA before for many years so I’ll know what to expect.
“But to go into something – not only the size of the FA and the resources that its got, like St George’s Park at a time when there is a real drive for change and a real drive for development – is a fantastic opportunity.”
Rigg is currently on gardening leave from QPR after he followed Hughes out of the Loftus Road last December.
It means he will not start his job at the FA until the New Year.
“I am spending a little bit of time now thinking the role through, having a look at it and listening to people,” said Rigg, who will be based at the St George’s Park complex in Staffordshire.
“The role is twofold. There’s a lot of talk in this country about us lacking identity. Well there’s an awful lot of identity in English football because it’s been developed in clubs. A lot of the development takes place every single day of the week in clubs so it’ll be my job to work very, very closely with everybody in all the categories of the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) – from category one to category four – to identify the players and support the clubs and know more about the types of British players coming through.
“That will then fit in line with England’s profile of what we want to develop.
“So on the one hand we’ve got Roy Hodgson with his senior team and his ultimate objective is to get to the World Cup.
“Our job and everybody else underneath that is to provide Roy with the resources whether it’s now or whether it is in 10 years time to enhance our opportunity to compete at the World Cup and at the European Championships.
“So what I’ve got to do is work with everybody in the FA but also everybody in the clubs to identify the players and get them into the system.”
Rigg, who has spent the last 12 years of his career working in the top flight of English football, believes the EPPP youth development scheme initiated by the Premier League will be of massive benefit to the FA.
He said: “It is a fantastic opportunity for English football to actually change the face of how we are identifying and developing players.
“That is going to have a significant impact over the next five to 10 years and we as a Football Association are going to work very hard with the other organisations to make sure that we have a combined and cohesive strategy for the development of the game at every level.”
Rigg joined Blackburn Rovers – his first Premier League club – in 2006 after a five-year stint as Sheffield Wednesday’s academy manager.
He stayed for two years at Ewood Park before following Hughes to Manchester City.
Rigg said: “I got the call off Sparky asking me if I fancied becoming the chief scout of Blackburn. It took me all of 1.2 seconds to decide.
“I spent a couple of years there and it was fantastic. It was my first experience of going into a Premier League club – and it was a proper Premier League club.
“John Williams, Tom Finn, working with these all people, it had a great atmosphere and it had a feel about it as being ultimately professional. The facilities that they had, the youth system that was there, the training ground up at Brockhall, the stadium, the fans – it was fantastic.
“We may not have had the resources that Manchester United or Liverpool had but it was a proper, well organised, well structured, slick Premier League operation.”
Rigg certainly had resources at Manchester City where, as technical director, he oversaw everything to do with player acquisition.
He believes the money he convinced City to splash out on the £24m Yaya Toure and the £16m Nigel de Jong – a former target of his at Rovers – represents the best of the multi-million pounds signings he identified.
“It was just as when Abu Dhabi were buying the club – anybody in world football would have given their right arm to be in the position I was,” said Rigg, who left City to join QPR three weeks before they were crowned 2012 Premier League champions.
“I left Blackburn on great terms and then went to City just at the start of whirlwind, mind-blowing change.
“What I was proud of more than anything – and I don’t want to take any personal credit for them winning the Premier League – was being part of a huge team of people which made a significant difference to that football club over the four years and being part of that.”
Now Rigg is ready for more change at the FA as he prepares for his new role.
He said: “In many ways there is no better opportunity to be part of something which is desperate – internally and externally – for change.”