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Chapter by Chapter
summaries of chapters 10 to 25 to follow soon

Chapter 4

Walter Winterbottom, as the head of FA Coaching, knew of these studies but he faced reluctance from professional players to listen to anything new. Undaunted, he dedicated a chapter of his book, Soccer Coaching, to “Analysing Play”. Using language that would gladden any current analyst he explained that he wanted to ‘study each separate movement’ while ‘analysing play and measuring the value of importance’. Perhaps most importantly he tried to collect data over a series of matches and use the information to predict future success.

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Chapter 6

Revie was well known as a superstitious manager and a control freak. He had input on everything at Leeds United and led the way on nutrition, team-bonding, training exercises, balance and movement, and of course the need to know as much about the opposition as possible. Revie delegated the scouting of his opponents to his assistants Syd Owen, Maurice Lindley and Les Cocker and began the process at least as far back as 1963. Their handwritten notes would be typed up and read out to the players during training sessions and pre-match briefings. It was unlike anything any of them had experienced before. 

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Chapter 8

In recent years the likes of Javier Buldu in Spain have investigated pitch networks in great detail and football fans have become used to seeing heat maps describing player interactions. “In 2016, I was in Oxford at the Mathematical Institute working on the interaction between complex networks,” explains Buldu. “I was looking for real cases to apply a new methodology that described what happened when two networks interacted between them. For example, what happens when two groups of friends get connected between them... Who'll be the leader? What individuals benefit the most from the interaction? I realized that a football match was a competition between two networks of people interacting between them."

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Chapter 5

Reep turned his attention to the role of luck and chance in the game, and together with statistician Professor Bernard Benjamin authored Skill and Chance in Association Football for the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Reep also linked up with Pollard when the latter returned to England after studying in Canada. “When the computer revolution started, and not to be left behind, I did another MSc, in Applied Computer Science,” recalls Pollard. “One course was Statistical Computing. I soon realized that Reep's data lent itself to this sort of multivariate analysis which could only be done on a computer.”

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Chapter 7

If you were an Everton player during the 1973-73 season you could not always be sure of a good night’s sleep. Not because the team was out drinking and nightclubbing, but because you could be woken at any time by a team of data scientists to take heart measurements and measure your breathing.


Chapter 9

Taylor’s Watford had already progressed from the Fourth to the Third to the Second Division of the Football League when he met Charles Reep and was impressed  by the ex-RAF man’s lengthy presentation on how he could improve Watford’s results. This was a time of suspicion for anything out of the ordinary and so a company was set up to pay Reep and his assistants and keep the football club out of the picture. Taylor would receive the match reports (often 10 or more pages long) and Reep was told to keep well and truly in the background.

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