The dangers of the transfer window
I don't think Brentford manager Andy Scott was being in any way boastful when he made the following claim:
"I like to think if you asked me a question about any player in the country I could give you a pretty good insight into what he is good at and what he is not good at, where he has been and what he has done."
It is not bragging or being big headed but a necessity of the job, especially when you are in charge at a club like the Bees.
The League Two side don't have much money and, as we move into the final week of the transfer window, Scott knows that they may not be able to turn down a good offer for one of his players.
The lessons are there from recent seasons. The Bees might have won promotion in 2006 but striker DJ Campbell was sold on the final day of that year's January transfer window. He left for Birmingham in a deal that netted Brentford £500,000 but the Bees had no time to replace him and struggled for goals after his departure (they netted 28 times in 18 games after he left). There are other cases of how last-minute deals have undermined lower league clubs. Chesterfield, for example, were hardly helped by the late sale of top scorer Caleb Folan to Wigan in 2007 and suffered relegation at the end of the season.
Scott's team are currently second in the table and hopeful of their first promotion in a decade. Not surprisingly, the 36-year-old is keen to keep his squad together and will be a lot happier when the window does close at 1700 GMT on Monday 2 February.
"I'm confident that unless an outrageous offer comes in the board will decline it," said Scott. "But you never know what is going to happen. You are on your toes because you might have to react very quickly - you might only have a day to bring someone in."
This explains why Scott, assistant manager Terry Bullivant and youth team boss Darren Sarll spend so much time watching other teams and monitoring players who one day they might try to sign.
"Even if we are not looking for a specific player we watch games so that if we are called upon to bring in a certain type we have a list that means we know who is roughly within our price range and who might fit in with our squad," Scott told me.
"We are always updating these lists. They detail players in every position - their size, strength, speed and whether they are good with their left or right foot."
Scott, who comes across as a likeable and focused individual, has rebuilt a large chunk of his squad since he stepped up from assistant manager following the dismissal of Terry Butcher in December 2007.
He must be doing something right because his players have gelled quickly, playing a high tempo game and displaying a strong work ethic.
The former Bees striker, who was forced to retire from playing in 2005 when he was diagnosed with the same heart problem that killed Marc-Vivien Foe two years earlier, attributes his success so far in the transfer market to background work and research.
"We always put a lot of homework in - at Brentford we cannot afford to make mistakes with signings," said Scott, who during his playing days was sold by Brentford to Oxford in January 2001 in an exercise designed to raise money. His fee was £75,000.
He will speak to former team-mates and managers to get an idea of a player's background, of whether they will fit in. What's more, Brentford often sign players from the non-league and Scott is looking for potential allied with a willingness to learn and develop.
"It is easy to watch players and see whether they are good but the hardest bit is making sure they are not going to disrupt the dressing room or not want to train properly, basically upset the whole equilibrium."
It is part of the reason why Scott is not in favour of the January transfer window. Hasty transfers take place and mistakes are made, with the unfortunate consequence that clubs are left saddled with unwanted players on long contracts. Clubs spring into life in the final week and "it becomes a free for all, the only people who win are the agents".
Scott also thinks the transfer window often works against lower league clubs because it restricts them from selling at other times of the season. Many sides have experienced financial difficulties but been unable to relieve the pressure by selling a player because the window is closed.
Do you agree with Scott?
Fan of the transfer window or not, Scott was busy last January, buying and selling as he remodelled the squad he inherited. The fact he cleared out players - seven left last January and he told several more before the end of the season that they could leave - freed up space for him to make well-considered early signings once the season had finished. This in turn gave his new-look squad longer to gel.
By that stage Scott had been handed a five-year contract - unusual in the lower leagues and a sign of the club's confidence in him. When news of the deal became public it generated a few headlines but the manager appears to have a good handle on the situation. He is quick to point out that severance in the event of a manger being sacked rarely covers the remainder of his deal - but chooses instead to see it as a sign that the club were looking for continuity.
Scott is the eighth permanent manager at Griffin Park this decade and in conversation he emphasises the need for stability and continuity.
"I have a lot of plans and not just at first-team level," said Scott. "It will take time and hopefully I will be here long enough to do that and Brentford will reap the rewards."
The Bees are surrounded by clubs with more money and a higher profile - Chelsea, Fulham and QPR to name a few - and Scott wants to ensure the Bees become attractive for talented young players who might not get a chance to play first-team football elsewhere.
"We need to promote a centre of excellence, get good people in and develop a style of coaching that we can carry through to the first team," said the Bees manager.
He talks enthusiastically about the prospect of a new stadium at Lionel Road but stresses the need for one focus across all areas at the club if they are to succeed.
I think a lot of what Scott says makes sense. He might be a young manager but he has a plan and a desire to succeed. He has always been interested in watching football, studying tactics and listening to people and their opinion on the games. The Bees boss is adamant that he will never think he has cracked it or become complacent and fall off the pace.
He has also mastered that art of evasion common to all good managers. When I asked Scott about the prospect of promotion he pointed out that Brentford ran out of gas last year and have a lot more to do this season before anything is actually accomplished. Brentford lost 2-0 at Macclesfield on Saturday and are clinging to second on goal difference. Scott is now focused on the next game and determined not to look too far ahead.
But at the same time I could not help but think that he will have a lot better idea about his team's prospects of promotion once the transfer window has closed next Monday.