WHO ARE YA? Dave Willoughby

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Dave Willoughby

1) Who are ya?

I’m Dave Willoughby, a 32 year old Performance Analyst from Sheffield

2) Who do you support?

I support Sheffield Wednesday, which is a shame these days but when I was growing up in the early 90′s they were actually really good!! I still remember when Andy Sinton chose to sign for us instead of Arsenal cos he wanted to play for a good footballing team!

3) What was your first game?

The first game I remember going to was Sheffield Wednesday 2 Watford 0, must have been about September 1990 in the old Division 2.

4) What do you do for a job?

I currently work for Onside Analysis as a Performance Analyst covering the Championship.

My job basically means producing previews for all the Championship games, expected teams, any news, the key strengths and weaknesses for each team etc..

After each game has been played I get footage of any I can (we use Wyscout to get video of the games) and do an analytical review of how each match went.

Onside Analysis is a great company with some really big and bright ideas and I think they’ll continue to grow.

I’ve previously analysed matches from around the world a diverse as US MLS to Norway’s Tippeligaen and the under 17 European Championships.

5) Have you played/worked for any football clubs?

I’ve previously worked as a performance analyst for Rotherham United, Coventry City Ladies and Barnsley.

I feel I’ve grown a little with each job and really enjoy what I do.

I’ve come quite a long way as I qualified with a degree in Accounts from university and worked in this field for a while before deciding this wasn’t the career for me.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut but I’ve put in a lot of unpaid hours to do a job I love! Every time somebody asks me what I do and I tell the. I watch football for a living they’re usually pretty jealous!

6) How did you get into it?

When I decided I didn’t want to be an accountant, I looked at what I could do and I’d always liked seeing the different statistics around football.

I found the Prozone courses and after going on the first one I was hooked!

I did more research and found I was immediately at a disadvantage due to most people having a Sports Science degree, which is what most clubs want.

I worked hard, produced a report on game I’d watched on TV and sent it off to a few clubs to see if anybody was interested. A guy at Rotherham picked it up and passed it onto the manager and he asked me to come in and start doing some stuff and it took off from there!

I’ve since completed all 3 levels of the Prozone courses, worked for 3 different clubs and written numerous blogs and I’m still learning all the time!

7) What do you get out of it?

Who wouldn’t love to watch football all day?! It’s the next best thing to playing and even when I wasn’t doing it for a living I was always talking about it and seeing the little things that most fans wouldn’t pick up.

I’ll be honest, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of my own free time (I still had to work a full time job while working at Rotherham, Coventry and Barnsley) and I’ve now got a young son so I have to manage how much free time I can put into it but I love every minute of what I do.

8) What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your stud marks/footsteps?

As long as you show a lot of desire and willingness to put the hard work in you can achieve anything!

Performance Analysis is growing rapidly throughout the world and I often get emails from people asking me how to get started. There are plenty of ways to get into the industry but my best advice is to make as many connections  and produce examples of your own work as you can.

9) If you could do it all again what would you change?

Hard question to answer as I do love my life but most clubs want somebody with a Sports Science degree so probably doing that at uni instead of accounts would be better. Saying that, the way the industry is progressing I think statistical and analytical degrees are going to be ever more useful and balancing old fashioned scouting with modern analytics is what every clubs should be striving towards. It’s not one or the other – it’s a combination of the two.

I’ve also had chances to apply for jobs working abroad – Qatar, Canada, USA – if I was a little younger I’d have loved to look at one of those opportunities but it came at a time in my life when moving away wasn’t an option.

10) Who’s your footballing hero?

My football idol is David Hirst – he was a fantastic striker who could have led the line for England for years had he stayed injury free. I saw him in Meadowhall last Christmas and I was still like a starstruck little kid!

In the realms of Performance Analysis, I wouldn’t call them “heroes” but there are some people doing some excellent work that is well worth reading for anybody interested in the subject – the guys who run the Statsbomb website churn out an incredible amount of fascinating stuff most of which is probably beyond what is being done at many football clubs at the moment and it is this kind of work that will help shape the future of many teams.

Many thanks Dave.

You can read and follow Dave’s football blog at allthingsfootballonline.blogspot.co.uk

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