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.

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  • 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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