Mike Still- Head of Recruitment Analysis

Mike Still is currently the Head of Recruitment Analysis and was happy to be interviewed by Performance Analysis UK about his current role, how he got into this role and how he goes about his daily work.

PA UK: What is your current role?

MS: Head of Recruitment Analysis at Colchester United, so my main duties are to track, analyse & present the data on our potential targets, manage the database of player reports, plan which games our recruitment & opposition scouts attend, and compile dossiers on targets leading up to transfer windows.

PA UK: Tell me about your background and what has led you to this point?

MS: I read about the performance analysis role as I graduated from my Sport & Exercise Science degree, so I completed FA Level 2 coaching, Prozone courses and attended Science in Football conferences which allowed me to secure an internship as Performance Analyst at Southend United academy where I worked for 2 seasons, and I also completed an internship at Tottenham Hotspur academy alongside my 2nd season at Southend. I then secured a full time job at Colchester United’s academy where I worked for 1 season before taking the First Team Performance Analyst position which I stayed in for 4 seasons before moving into my current role in recruitment, holding this position for 2 seasons now.

PA UK: How did working in your current role come about?

MS: I’d worked in performance analysis for 7 seasons where the focus is on improving your own team & players, and analysing your next opponents, but I had always been interested in the recruitment side of things, helping out with this wherever I could. Colchester were looking to introduce more stats & data to their recruitment process and I was open to a change in where my role was focused, so I moved into my current role.

PA UK: Best moment in analysis?

MS: Staying up in League One on the last day of 2014/15 season. We needed to beat Preston who were nailed on for automatic promotion, and we needed 4 teams above us to lose. Those 4 teams were all leading at around 70mins and we missed a penalty. Then gradually those 4 teams all slipped behind & were losing, with us scoring at around 85mins. We held on against everything Preston threw at us and the 4 teams above us all lost meaning we stayed in the league for another year.

Other fulfilling moments in analysis are things such as giving your goalkeeper information about penalty takers, helping them save a penalty which can win you the game, or identifying areas of an oppositions play which your team then manages to nullify & contributes to a good result.

Now working in recruitment, the equivalent moments are spotting & tracking players who you hope to sign, bringing them into the club and them doing well for your own team.

PA UK: Best player that you have worked with?

MS: The players we’ve had over the last 4-6 years who have gone on to do the really well are probably George Moncur, Tariqe Fosu and Jacob Murphy. We actually had Jack Marriott & Kemar Roofe on loan briefly although neither got much game time, but they’ve both gone on to play at a really high level.

In terms of who I’ve worked closely with, Kane Vincent-Young stands out due to his attitude, athleticism & dribbling ability, he’s got a lot of potential. I worked closely with Jack Payne when I was at Southend who’s another player with a brilliant attitude so it’s good to see him have a chance higher up the leagues. The youth team I worked with in my first season at Colchester featured Sammie Szmodics, Frankie Kent & Macauley Bonne who have all gone on to play at a higher level, as well as Alex Gilbey & Drey Wright.

PA UK: What’s the ultimate goal for you and why?

MS: To continue refining my recruitment approach & processes, and putting these into practice in order to identify & recruit successful players for the club I work for.

PA UK: Are you more data or video heavy in your work and why are you more heavy on that area?

MS: I believe it’s best to keep this balanced and use both where possible. I feel the key is to use each approach for what it’s most effective for. For example, stats can tell me what a player does on average over a 46 game season, whereas it’s not feasible to watch all of these games. But stats can only give me information on what’s been measured, whereas watching a player live, I can see everything he does. Stats can tell me how many passes, crosses, shots etc a player performs, so if we’re looking for a player who performs a high frequency of these actions, we can use stats as a guide or start point of when deciding who to watch. However (although most stats have success or accuracy %) it is essential to watch video or live games of these players without just trusting the stats blindly. This is to apply context to the data in order to judge if that player would be a good fit for your team i.e. playing style, formation etc.

PA UK: Do you think EFL clubs utilise analytics to its potential?

MS: I would say there are gradually more clubs taking this approach, and you could say the depth of analytics they use exceeds what is expected at their level. Obviously this is proportional to the leagues you look at – Brentford & Leeds in the Championship are renowned for the analytical approaches they take and can obviously do things on a pretty advanced scale, which wouldn’t be feasible in League Two. But you have clubs like us and Forest Green, for example, who are looking to utilise analytics and use this to assist our analysis and recruitment. So it’s about what is realistic, relevant and effective for the level you’re working at.

PA UK: What do you think is next for the analysis industry?

MS: I think the main, key tools are being regularly used now (video, stats, data, presentations), and there’s an increasing amount of analysis platforms which are trying to lead the market or break into it (Wyscout, Instat, BePro11, Opta etc). Some of the areas that companies are looking into now, e.g. packing data, is so advanced it’s hard to predict what else could be covered. I think if a platform can offer exceptional video coverage, editing, presentation tools, player & scout reports, along with highly accurate data, clubs would value having this all in one place. Also, tools & metrics which apply to the football & coaching side, but also the boardroom & business side and can satisfy both departments would be sought after by many clubs.

PA UK: What tool has the biggest impact on your job?

MS: The platform I use most in my current role is Wyscout, due to the video coverage & clips, statistics on a wide range of leagues, player search functions and also the player lists & shadow squad tools which helps to keep things organised.

PA UK: What advice would you give someone that wants a job in the industry?

MS: Keep up to date with the newest approaches & areas of research, read articles and listen to interviews with experienced industry experts. There’s more & more websites and Twitter content being produced all the time so keeping up with this is a good start.

Always be thinking of new ideas & areas to look into, test theories, put together your own data on an area you’re interested in and play around with the best way of presenting that information to someone who is looking at it for the first time. Have examples of your own work to take to interviews or send to potential employers to show you have initiative. This could be video & video editing work or data & statistics.

Do your best to work shadow, visit clubs, attend conferences & events, plus obviously applying for positions & getting interviews, building contacts this way. I view this as creating your own luck.

Check out more interviews with Analysts and Coaches here.

If you are interested in working in football or know more about what the life of an analyst involves, take a look at our Introduction to Analysis Course here!

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