They say that a leopard never changes its spots, writes Jon Boyle.
So it should come as little surprise that former Chelsea FC scout Ray Pantling now has as much passion to scour the world for premier tyres to sell at his Bletchley-based business Tyres Direct, as he did trying to find the next David Beckham.
Ray spotted the likes of Beckham and Danny Granville in their early teens – both of whom he selected for his Middlesex FA team – plus Gary Neville, Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler when they were playing school football.
And he has since put his eagle-eyes to good use to stay ahead of the game in the tyre industry over the last 25 years.
Ray, speaking at David Lloyd Club in MK after his regular daily gym session, said: “I love scouting for good tyres as much as I loved searching for good footballers – it feels like more of a hobby than a job.
“I started Tyres Direct during my six years working as a scout for Chelsea, when I was watching two or three county school football matches a day while also managing the Middlesex FA U16s to U18s.
“I had David Beckham in my Middlesex FA team and I invited him to come to Chelsea, but he was never going to leave Manchester United because he was a fan.
“One player I did get to Chelsea was left-back Danny Granville, who went on to play for the first team and for Manchester City.
But the jobs clashed so I quit football to focus on tyres, and it was a good decision as Tyres Direct has been established 25 years.
“I visit as many tyre plants as I can around the world, in places such as Indonesia, Thailand, the USA and the UK, because it’s important to see how well they are being made.
“One factory I visited in Thailand was making both Falken and Dunlop tyres – I really like Falken. “I used to have to watch 100 games of football to see one good player. It’s the same with tyres – the two are linked.”
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