HOW TO BE A FOOTBALL ANALYST – INTERVIEW WITH NICK GEARING

The following is an interview I recently did with Chance Analytics of my role as an analyst and future plans including Performance Analysis UK. See the link below for the original-

 https://chanceanalytics.com/2017/05/27/how-to-be-a-football-analyst-interview-with-nick-gearing/ 

Interview by SideLineTeamTalk

Nick Gearing is Head of Analysis at League 2 Leyton Orient and runs courses for aspiring analysts. If you’ve ever wondered what analysts do or if you could be one then this will be perfect for you and, we hope, very insightful.

  • What Team do you Support?
    • I grew up as a Gillingham FC supporter, having a season ticket for the club for 12 years which was really my early education in football as I was exposed to Football League matches from Championship to League 2 almost weekly.
  • What is your current role and job title?
    • Head of Analysis at Leyton Orient Football Club.
  • How did you get into football analytics?
    • It started with a want to work in professional football and through a plan to work on the coaching side of football. I began to pay attention to the use of video and then by watching Moneyball and slowly learning more about stats through university, I self-taught myself how to use analysis software and eventually got an internship at Gillingham FC.
  • What is an average day at work for you?
    •  In general it involves arriving at the club’s training ground around 8am and watching the coming week’s opposition and adding to a report that I start to make on a Sunday that is then given to the Manager and Coaches. This morning is then filled with tactical conversation with the management about the strengths and weaknesses of the coming opposition and the strengths and weaknesses of our own team in order to address these in training. Training will then be filmed and gives us an opportunity to discuss and look back at the work we have done over the morning. I can then have 1 to 1 session with players on their role in the coming match and how we intend to implement our plan.
  • What coaching badges do you possess? Do you plan on getting further qualifications?
    • Currently I am Level 2 but that is only due to having a heavy work load over the past few years, I intend to start my UEFA B next season and progress onwards from there.
  • What are your future plans and ambitions?
    • I would like to work in the Premier League as well as working abroad in my career. I also make no secret of the fact that I intend to go down the coaching route in first team football and use my route into football to hopefully attain a coaching role over the next 10 years as I now have a taste for it after having an opportunity to do so at Leyton Orient this season.
  • What advice do you have for people new to analytics?
    • Work as hard as possible, learn from those around you and those that have worked in the industry. Networking is also a huge factor in learning, self development and getting roles in football.
  • How do you see football analytics advancing in the future?
    • I believe one day everything will be live, in game. Currently we are able to clip matches live and show things at half time as FIFA rules state that you cannot have a live feed on the touchline. But I believe this will change one day and the game will take a step up statistically and in terms of video, thus making the game more tactical.
  • Do you read football analytics blogs? What are your recommendations?
    • In all honesty I read more coaching blogs as all of my work is more focused on the analysing video and performance through a coaching viewpoint, rather than a statistical one. In terms of this I enjoy reading a blog from Michael Beale, currently Sao Paolo Assistant Manager and any coaching articles or session ideas.
  • How much influence do you and your team have on club recruitment? Is club recruitment data-driven?
    • On some recruitment it has been very high but on the majority the club has had a Head of Recruitment that deals with this.
  • Do you record data for the first team games or is it collected by data providers?

    • Most statistical information is provided from WyScout as it can be time consuming collecting data within a League 2 club while performing duties that are probably used more often.
  • Does LO use opposition scouting and how important is it?

    • My main role is opposition scouting and working on how we can take advantage of opposition weaknesses as well as looking at strengths.
  • Do you think EFL clubs utilise analytics to its potential?

    • I don’t believe all do, but people will have differing opinions on the use of analysts. For some people an analyst’s role is to provide a lot of stats and reports for a manager but in my opinion the analyst has to be an extra coach that is able to give a different view and uses technology to present the message to the players.
  • Do you use much analysis and data in your U15 team and how do they respond to it?

    • In all honesty it isn’t something we have been able to do much of but it is something that I believe is important in Academy football as it speeds up the learning and coaching process and with young people becoming used to using technology 24/7, I believe if you are not doing this you are missing an opportunity.
  • Do you have contact time with players to analyse play and discuss stats?

    • The stats side of things is a lot more for the management and coaches but I have a lot of contact time with the players whether that be 1 to 1 chats, video presentations or spending time on the training field.
  • How closely do you work with first team coaching staff?

    • All managers at Leyton Orient have trusted me and used my opinion. I have shared an office with all of them and my role is considered part of the coaching staff.
  • Can you tell us about Performance Analysis UK?

    • It is an organisation set up to aid the teaching of aspiring analysts and current professionals but gives a view from myself in a real life football setting, rather than from a university course or journal papers that are outside the setting.
  • What was your motivation for starting Performance Analysis UK?

    • When I started in Analysis there was no real courses or route into it. There was one or two Masters courses but nobody inside the sport telling me what it would be like and what the role would entail. Due to this I wanted to start giving workshops in areas of analysis to feed this message to aspiring analysts and coaches to make informed decisions about their futures.
  • Who should take you analysis courses and why?
    • Any aspiring analyst, sports coach or someone that has studied sport and doesn’t know where to go next with their career. It’s an opportunity to learn the real life of an analyst and how you can implement analysis within a club or sports setting.
  • How will you prepare for next season?
    • Off season and preseason is all about setting the standards for the season ahead. So this is the time to help with player recruitment if this is something that is possible and to set out the plans of the season. For me it is important to use this time with the coaches and set out the training plan for the season and how Analysis is going to aid this. It is also an opportunity to build up a basic knowledge of other teams in the league and perhaps look at stats from previous years to look forward to this one.
  • How easy is it for aspiring analysts to get experience at club level and what advice can you give?
    • It is difficult as there is such a vast number of students and aspiring analysts that want to get into football. But for me it’s about going the extra mile and learning more than you’d learn on a course that’s set out by an education board. Offer your services to clubs for small fees or free if you can just to improve your cv and that’s when you will become more appealing to employers.

Thanks to Nick for carrying out the interview and giving great insight to prospective analysts. Be sure to follow his twitter and check out his analysis courses here.

Make sure you’re following my Twitter and Chance Analytic’s Twitter.

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O’s analyst Gearing features in Staff to Students Trust lesson

Below is an article post on the Leyton Orient website following my visit to the Leyton Orient Trust. See the link below for the original-

http://www.leytonorient.com/news/article/2016-17/news-os-analyst-gearing-features-in-staff-to-students-trust-lesson-3443424.aspx

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Head of Analysis, Nick Gearing, inspires new LOT students

Leyton Orient’s Head of Analysis, Nick Gearing, popped into the teaching suite situated on the 5th floor of the Matchroom Stadium and presented an interesting and informative insight into his career so far.

Not much older than the students in his audience, Nick spoke of his educational journey from school via university and ending up in his current role at the O’s.

“I wasn’t sure of exactly what I wanted to do,” said Nick, “just that I wanted to be in the sports industry. In fact at one point it looked as though I’d end up as a teacher.

“At Uni I researched and taught myself how to analyse sports specific data and this helped me when I looked for an internship. Initially this was at Gillingham [football club] and it was there that Andy Hessenthaller offered me a chance as they didn’t have an analyst at the time.

“When Andy moved to Leyton Orient and the job became available, I had no hesitation in applying as the O’s is regarded as a big club and I wanted to further my career.”

Nick also advised the learners to grasp opportunities with both hands and network as much as possible.

“You never know who may just be able to help you in the future”, he remarked, “and having even the tiniest experiences can add up to a lot on a CV.”

A fascinating statistic that brought raised eyebrows to all In the room was when Nick stated that out of 400 students studying sports and leisure in his years at university, as far as he is aware, he is the only one employed at a professional football club.

“There were many who wanted to get into football,” said Nick, “but as far as I know, I’m the only one at this level. I realise I’m lucky but I was determined so the extra work and effort needed to be put in – something I recommend!”

Nick had also prepared a Powerpoint presentation, explaining just what is needed when analysing match and player data.

Richard Steele, teacher at the Leyton Orient Trust, said afterwards: “We’re extremely grateful to Nick for giving up his time and coming to talk to the students. He gave an absorbing insight into just what is needed in his particular role but more than that, some great advice for the students to take them forward.

“We all really appreciate the club staff and player’s taking time out to visit the students as it really does inspire them and re-enforces the great opportunity they have of being part of a professional football club.”

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New beginnings… Leyton Orient FC

So my last post was towards the end of the 15/16 season whilst working with Gillingham FC. Since then unfortunately we did not make the play offs as hoped and as is the football world- changes can happen.

The change in this case was me leaving the club and then needing to look for a new role for the 16/17 season. Initially I worked with Bromley FC during preseason aiding the manager and Assistant Manager (of whom I worked with at Gillingham) and new club analyst to get an analysis department up and running, lending my experience and knowledge to the club. This was very enjoyable and having worked with the team, seen the players being brought in and knowing how fantastic the coaching team is at Bromley I truly believe they will have a fantastic season.

So while I was working with Bromley I had a phone call from Leyton Orient’s former analyst at the request of the manager (of whom I also briefly worked with at Gillingham). This phone call led to a meeting, a trial week and eventually the title of Head of Analysis for the very ambitious and exciting club Leyton Orient FC.

We are now four games into the season, I am enjoying my work with the club and we have won the last couple of matches, looking to push on with high ambitions for the season. I now look forward to the rest of the season ahead and when I consider that a year and a half ago I had no experience in first team football I am delighted at how far I have come in such a short space of time and now at the age of 22.

There is a saying- “It’s who you know, not what you know”. One thing my experience does prove is that this saying is only half true. In my previous role at Gillingham my hard work, willingness to learn and knowledge has helped me when meeting fantastic, influential football people and people that can provide further opportunities for me as shown both with working with Bromley and Leyton Orient FC. Without providing good work in the past it doesn’t matter who you meet. I now look forward to seeing what happens next in the journey and the season with Leyton Orient FC.

You will hear from me again soon! Come on you O’s!

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Gillingham striker Luke Norris on the advantage of knowing the opposition

The following is an article from the Kent Online website containing recognition from Gillingham FC striker Luke Norris

http://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/sport/the-shouting-men-with-luke-92012/

 

It was nice to be back in the starting XI on Tuesday but a shame about the result.

I have had to wait for my chance and it has been frustrating but the boys have been doing well and the results over the last few weeks haven’t been what we have deserved.

I bided my time and at Fleetwood I got the start and the goal but I am a bit upset because the first goal we conceded was my fault. I should have cleared it.

It sort of went straight in from the corner and I should have cleared. I thought I had a shout of seeing it out. That is something I will learn from.

If I went for it I could have cleared it. It was nice to score but it wasn’t the best of evenings.

We were told about how they played with the analysis before the game and I knew they do like to play it around a bit.

When their defender got the ball, I knew he wasn’t going to play it long and he lost his footing a bit.

I was one-on-one and I took it. We needed the goal, being 2-0 down and it was a big goal. It was a shame we couldn’t kick on. That second goal just wouldn’t come from us.

Nick Gearing does a good job with the analysis at the club and we nicked a goal from knowing how they like to play, by pressing. We get everything sent to us about our performances and Nick works hard on it.

He watches every game, analysing every second and he sends clips to every player so they know about everything.

It is good for every player to get that and the goal was down to his hard work.

 

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All change in a year…

My last post on this was on the 24th March a whole year ago. At the time of writing I had just been given an internship at Gillingham FC, given the opportunity to help the first team for the final few months of the season…..

Since this point I have been given a full time role at the club, in charge of Performance Analysis. This covers not only the first team but also overseeing the running of analysis at u18’s and 16’s. This now provides opportunity to expand this further in coming seasons and improve the analysis at the club with the ultimate aim of continual improvement on the pitch.

The main of my work is with the first team, I am in charge of all opposition analysis and post match analysis and so far this season it has been a good year for us!

Here is an interview that I’ve done with our brilliant media team at the Gills to give people a little bit of an idea of what I do…..

I now get a lot of messages from analysts and aspiring analysts via LinkedIn and other social media, I try to answer as many as possible.

At the start of the season there was a lot of speculation media-wise about the team’s predicted league position, but all within the club had and still do believe that this season can be one to remember. We got off to a magnificent first few months of the season, picking up results that surprised many outside of the club and have continued fantastic form throughout the season.

At the time of writing this there are 11 matches left of the 2015/16 season. My next update will most likely be at the end of the season when I reflect a bit more on our year are a club and mine in my role.

Until then we will all continue to work hard for the final push, get behind the boys and see what we can do!

Up The Gills!

 

 

 

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Sometimes its just a bit of luck…..My chance

Like many aspiring Analysts, I have spent the past year writing letters to football clubs; both football league and non-league. Any club within two hours driving distance has received a letter from me asking to shadow Performance Analysis staff, film matches or anything that I could offer or do to help. Up until a few weeks ago, I had received only one reply, a letter back (from the club manager) explaining that there were too many people at this club. Although disappointed, I appreciated that the manger had taken the time to reply.

Several weeks ago I received a phone call from Gillingham FC regarding a letter that I wrote about 6 weeks previous. Since this time I have been invited to meet the club’s head of sport science, had meetings with the manager, attended training sessions, as well as being part of decision making. I am in a very lucky position and prior to me starting with Gillingham, there was no Analyst working directly with the first team.

My input has gone from opinion to creating clips to enhance feedback, to creating statistics and now looking forward to improving the current oppositional analysis that I have been doing, networking with other analysts from clubs in the same league. Although just on an internship basis currently, there is a lot of potential that this could turn into a permanent role for me. Any aspiring analysts that may be reading this, a little bit of luck is all it takes.

Any League 1 analysts reading this, I would be very interested in connecting with you, please contact me on nicholas.gearing@live.co.uk.

Thanks for reading and wish me luck…

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Man City 1-2 Barcelona: Barca’s exceptional possession makes it a difficult task ahead for City

The Round of 16 in the UEFA Champions League, with Barcelona visiting the Etihad, dominating possession with short, sharp passes, keeping City running all night with very few opportunities to create anything for themselves.

Man City Selection

Pellegrini being without Yaya Toure due to suspension meant that a four-man midfield was chosen, using a 4-4-2 formation. Dzeko was preferred to new signing Wilfred Bony or an additional midfielder such as Fernandinho against a team renowned for their intricate play in the centre of the pitch.

  • 01 Hart
  • 05 Zabaleta
  • 04 Kompany
  • 26 Demichelis
  • 22 Clichy Dismissed after an earlier booking
  • 08 Nasri (Fernandinho – 62′ )
  • 06 Fernando Booked
  • 07 Milner
  • 21 Silva (Sagna – 78′ )
  • 10 Dzeko (Bony – 68′ )
  • 16 Agüero

Barcelona selection

A typical 4-4-3 formation and line up, with Barca legend Xavi on the bench with Rakitic starting.

  • 01 ter Stegen
  • 22 Dani Alves Booked (Adriano – 75′ Booked )
  • 03 Piqué
  • 14 Mascherano
  • 18 Alba
  • 04 Rakitic Booked (Mathieu – 71′ )
  • 05 Busquets
  • 08 Iniesta
  • 10 Messi
  • 09 Suárez
  • 11 Neymar (Pedro – 80′ )

Match summary

Barcelona controlled much of the match, going in two goals up at the break, having 62.5% of the game’s possession, a statistic which is often said to be taken as too much of an indication of the way a game has gone, but on this occasion Barcelona’s possession was not only high but short, sharp passes kept the ball from City. Moments of over three minutes at a time that City did not touch the ball says a lot about the way in which Barcelona approached the game.

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Wrong choice in Midfield for City?

As highlighted, Manchester City started with a 4-4-2 formation, choosing a midfield four of Milner and Fernando playing centrally, with Nasri and David Silva playing wide. Throughout the game, Samir Nasri did not make a single tackle and made only one recovery. David Silva attempted five tackles and succeeded three times, as well as making two ball recoveries. In the time that Fernandinho was on the pitch, the player made three tackles, three of which winning the ball, as well as making four ball recoveries; more than Samir Nasri’s 62 minutes on the field of play. This perhaps suggests that Fernandinho would have been a more effective choice for the starting line up than Nasri, purely for defensive reasons, with Barcelona be allowed to complete 76 successful passes in the final third during Nasri’s time on the pitch, three of which created chances and one of these assisted a goal. All of these three key passes originated from the edges of the final third, a midfield position.

Dzeko too was fairly ineffective in a striker position, having only one shot on target from six shots and creating only one chance. With this in mind, retrospectively it could be that City should have played with Fernandino as a defensive midfield player, in place of Dzeko and allowed Nasri, Silva and Aguero to look for goals at the other end of the field.

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Unplayable Barcelona?

Although it is easy to identify weaknesses in team tactics, there is always the argument that Barcelona are… well, Barcelona. Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez are players that could play in almost any team in the world, individually. Put them together and you have three main points of focus for defenders to mark, that’s without taking into consideration the runs from midfield and advances of Jordi Alba on the left. Lionel Messi, single-handedly had two-thirds of the amount of successful take-on’s as the whole Man City team throughout the 90 minutes.

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The two first half goals from Suarez meant that City had a lot of work to do in the second half, managing to pull one back but Gael Clichy was sent off for a send bookable offence, leaving the last part of the game even more difficult for City, with a mammoth task ahead at the Camp Nou.  One positive for City came in the closing moments of the game, as Zabaleta fouled Messi and gave a way a penalty, Messi had his penalty saved and then did the unthinkable- missing an open goal on the rebound… Maybe he is human after all, not that the rest of his display during the game suggested so.

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Conclusion

Perhaps then it can be concluded that a possible change in personnel in the starting line up for Manchester City could have resulted in a harder City defensive unit to get through, trusting Sergio Aguero to add to his 97 Man City career goals that he started the game with, on few opportunities to enable the team to hold majestic Barcelona at bay. Afterall, Aguero had two shots in the game, scoring one and the other being more of a half chance from over twenty yards from goal.

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