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20 July 2022

Read the full interview below

Will Stephenson sat down with iFollow Ipswich during Town's pre-season Loughborough training camp earlier this month to provide some insight into his role as the Club's Lead First-Team Performance Analyst.

In the interview, which can be read in full below, Will [pictured above (left) alongside Morgan Howells, First-Team Assistant Performance Analyst], discusses the work of the analysis department in the season and off-season, working under Kieran McKenna, delivering information to players and more.

Will, I can appreciate that you’re busy so I won’t keep you for too long - what are you working on at the moment? 

We’ve just got in from today’s training session. We were filming with two cameras this morning to cover set pieces. We had one behind the takers looking at their delivery and the technical side. We also had one filming from the drone which was looking at the finer details of the set pieces we were working through. 

Now, we’re taking it off of the cameras, cutting it up and looking at everything we can straight away so we can then feed back to the players and staff as soon as possible. 

What is your turnaround time for getting footage to the staff and players? 

As soon as you can is the remit. As soon as we come back in from training, we’re on it straight away. The feedback is pretty instant. We try and share it with the staff as soon as possible. Players-wise, we’ll then decide what needs to be shown to them, what is relevant, and what needs to be taken into the next session from set pieces, for example, or for the next game. 

How important is that constant messaging; you have TV’s at Playford Road and up in Loughborough showing your training footage? 

It’s fantastic. We’re trying to drip-feed things in subliminally. The lads are seeing content all the time, be it in formal meetings, or informal ways like with the TV’s in the canteen and communal areas. Those messages are then put across on the grass and when going into games. There is a constant flow of the messages and principles that the manager and staff are trying to get into the players.

You’ve been at the Club for a while. How much does it change when working under different managers? 

Every manager is different and they all have their own ways of working. Over the last few years, it has changed dramatically with the growth of analysis in the game. It has grown as we’ve moved from manager to manager in terms of what we do and what we are able to do. There’s more software and we’re using a drone now which is something that the manager is really keen to use. We’ve seen the benefits of that; the technology improving and what we can achieve with the software.

There has been big changes with this manager. We’ve now got staff that are capable of doing their own analysis, can use the software, and have experience of being analysts as well. That compliments our work nicely. Across different managers, analysis has always been at the forefront of their work and has had a big impact on the managers I’ve worked with.

Charlie Turnbull pre-season day one.jpg

In the analysis department at the moment there is yourself, Morgan and Charlie [Turnbull, Head of Analysis]. How does that all come together? 

Charlie is a coach-analyst, so he is on the grass everyday and part of the manager’s coaching staff. He has great experience of being a manager as well as a coach. He feeds into the manager alongside myself. 

Morgan is our assistant analyst who supports myself and Charlie with a lot of the training analysis. In the season, he helps with a lot of the opposition analysis as well. It’s a filtering process that goes through Morgan, myself and Charlie up to the manager and Martyn [Pert]. We will also liaise with Reg [Rene Gilmartin], Granty [Lee Grant] and the other support staff. At the minute, we’ve got a nice balance across the coaching department which then feeds back into the analysis department. 

How receptive are the players when it comes to the video work? 

Really, really receptive. We have lads asking for things straight after training and questioning things; when is 'this' available or can I get 'this'? 

We try and mix-up the way we present and give feedback to them. Some of it is informal and some of it will be in a meeting room with a big screen where we might have a debrief. I think the players are really dialled into it and onboard with it. I think the importance of it now is massive. When the season comes along, the games are thick and fast, so the messages right now are really key. I think we’ve got a really good buy-in from the players in that regard. 

Once we get into the season and you are reviewing footage of the opposition, without giving too much away, what sort of things are you looking at? 

This time of year is a little bit different with it being pre-season. We’ll be constantly looking at the opposition when building into games. We’ll go through looking at how we can best impose our game on the opposition. Myself, Charlie and Morgan will all watch the opposition ourselves and then come together with the clips that we feel would apply best to our game plan. 

Those messages will then go into the players. They will get the fine-tuned details of the filtering process and within that, we come up with a game plan that is related to the training that week. It’s a constant cycle of information, coaching, training, then feeding back and reviewing that. 

Just finally, the analysis department puts in a lot of hours of work across the year. How much time does it take when looking at an opponent and with everything that comes with that?

There’s no quick way of doing it. You have to watch numerous games and there is a quick turnaround. As soon as you finish one game, you’re onto the next opposition or it’s reviewing our own processes. As soon as we’re in from training, we’re reviewing that.

There’s more footage and data available. It is constant and it’s one of those jobs that doesn’t really stop in a lot of ways. There’s also variety, though. We try and vary how we deliver it though because with all the games we play, the players have got to take in a lot of information as well. It’s busy, but it’s good to be busy. There’s a lot of hours that go into it, there’s no doubt about that, but it helps the coaches and it helps the players, so it is all worthwhile.

Morgan Howells West Ham (H).jpg

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