Our pride at receiving unexpected call-ups to utilise our data and expertise in improving the fortunes of England C
A year is a long time in football. Last season, we at AnalystsBar watched the 2022 meeting of England C take on their Welsh counterparts as a continuation of our tracking of Will Evans, then having a dominant season for Bala Town. We weren’t disappointed, as the big forward dominated proceedings, played a key role in securing Wales’ 4:0 win and added to the growing interest in his availability in the English Football League.
But there was plenty to be disappointed in England’s performance. Breaking from the traditional policy of providing a platform for the National League’s young talent, manager Paul Fairclough trusted experienced, high-profile campaigners but were cruelly exposed by Wales’ dominance in duels and intelligent pressing.
So imagine our pride when we were approached by Fairclough to help address some of the 2022 issues that, by his own admission, still kept him awake at night.
When providing support, it’s often crucial to establish the key objectives and parameters you’re expected to uphold and it became clear through the numerous Zoom meetings we had, Fairclough wanted to return to providing an important platform for younger, hungrier players who could wear the Three Lions with pride.
Like working with any client, there are a number of contextual factors, data indicators and industry information we can’t talk about. But there were some key criteria, like the need to select from a broad base of National League clubs to ensure it reflected the true strength of the league and increased the chances of full representation, that made it into the public domain via the pre-match pressers. Some took this to be tokenism, but as was recognised from the very first day at training, every single one of our selections were there on merit and demonstrated both the necessary desire and their own unique qualities to justify selection.
But let’s be absolutely clear, this was not a simple task. Particularly for the three of us who, despite having experience of working alongside those in the game to enhance their own projects, felt the weight of National responsibility while still juggling the day-to-day responsibilities in our lives. Who had to ensure that we could back our observations and opinions convincingly to an incredibly experienced and respected client.
Thanks to file-sharing platforms, our three (!) WhatsApp groups and an understanding of each others circumstances and skill sets, we ensured that we were prepared to meet all selection criteria ahead of announcement deadlines and the inevitable ins and outs of international call ups.
However tired and overwhelmed we might’ve felt during this process, seeing the pride of players, players we had a significant role in selecting, posting their happiness on social media is probably one of our proudest moments since AnalystsBar opened in 2021:
Our attention wasn’t just on England, though. Thanks to our knowledge of the Cymru Premier League and our qualifications in opposition analysis, we were able to provide Paul Fairclough and his coaching team with a comprehensive document identifying key aspects of open play and set pieces that played a significant role in the 2022 result and were likely to be replicated in the 2023 game at Altrincham, particularly given the number of repeated picks the Welsh side used from the previous result.
One example was the role Wales’ Clayton Green played in disrupting England’s build-up play in the middle third. Wales seemed willing to concede countless free kicks and were confident of winning the inevitable aerial duel, rather than facing the threat of England making progressive runs against them.
Knowing the role you play in the process is always important. It wasn’t our job to tell the coaches or players how to address these issues, particularly as this was a new squad who were purposely selected to overcome some of the 2022 challenges due to their own skill sets. What worked well, we thought, was posing the key insights from 2022 as questions to be solved for the 2023 game. Asking how the players might overcome a certain strength or expose a liability provided some focus for the players to consider and coaches to plan for.
And watching players offer solutions to the very problems you’d identified while performing live was quite the experience!
But credit must also go to Paul Fairclough and his coaching team, too. To understand the need to change after last season, to find creative solutions to the financial and logistical problems they faced, to trust and value the insights we gave without having the stature or credibility in the game that they have is incredibly refreshing. And should reassure any amateur analyst out there that there IS space for them and that they can be heard.
About Analysts Bar
Originally founded in 2021 by fellow Notts County fans Colin Sisson and Richard Ogando Analysts Bar offer data analysis and talent identification services to the footballing industry and related media.
Colin and Richard recently welcomed popular National League Blogger and Analyst Tom Williams to the team ensuring they can continue to provide a comprehensive range of football data services and analysis to clubs, players, and coaches at all levels.
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