Thursday, 10 August 2017

Blackpool Football Club Season Review by Callum Barlow

Callum Barlow, a second year Sports Coaching student shares his experience working with Blackpool Football Club for the 2016/17 season. Callum is one of many students who has used UCLan's industry links to gain valuable experience working in professional sport.

 Early July 2016 my journey with Blackpool first team started. I met up with Head of Performance Analysis Adam Whiteside at Bloomfield Road, we had a meeting in one of the boxes overlooking the pitch and discussed the infrastructure of the up and coming season. One of the key things he discussed with me was to get bright enthusiastic and committed analysis student[s] to assist with the aim of getting the team promoted.

I was assigned to the role of an Opposition Analyst, this is where my primary focus was to scrutinise Blackpool’s opponents and to gain evidence on
- Minutes of goals scored and conceded
- Key players
- Strengths playing home and away
Throughout the season I was to attend every home game and this was to video and code the match as a whole as well as taking into account individual player characteristics, and also key performance indicators which the manager highlighted as the reasoning behind success.

As well as attending home games, there was also the opportunity to assist in a couple of away games as the season prolonged. I feel as though this was a taster for the future. With attending away games it made me feel apart of the team due to being involved in every aspect. From being included in team meetings at the hotel where I was able to take onboard the managers thoughts and add it to my knowledge. I was also able to go and set up changing rooms, and with this stick up pictures with positive phrases that I had created for motivation. This technique was adopted by the team for the rest of the season. When it came to the game itself away from home, a lot of the gantries were in the home teams allocated area, so if Blackpool scored we as analysts had to remain professional.

Other duties which I undertook included:
Filming goal keeping and the main training sessions
 Piecing together the match day schedule
 Composing motivational videos
Completing post match reports
- Analysing opponent’s penalty takers – to discuss with the goal keeper.

All the hard work from the staff and the players paid off, as Blackpool booked a place in the Play Off Final after beating fourth place Luton Town Football Club. With this it meant a lot of preparation had to take place in order to maxamise the plan to beat Exeter. On the day of the final it was a very early start as I had to be setting off from Bolton at 5:00am. I was assisted on the coach by Owen who had also supported Blackpool since the start of the season, who is also a UCLAN student. During the journey we gathered data on Exeter and discussed how we thought they were going to play. We did this by looking at InStat Analysis and Wyscout Analysis before sending the evidence over to Adam. Once we arrived at Wembley we took in our surroundings before going in to analyse the game. Blackpool were not on the front foot at the start of the game, but still managed to go in at 1-1. I was in contact with Adam, passing on information that I though was reliable in order to go and win the game. In the end the game finished Blackpool 2 Exeter 1.

In my first season within professional football I have helped Blackpool get promoted from League 2 to League 1. I feel as though this shows that students who help out within teams really can bring a lot to the everyday running of the club. Hopefully from this Blackpool go on to create a hierarchy where more students can get involved in order for them to keep building.