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RTID Big Interview: Adam Smith

26 April 2014

Your Matchday magazine spoke with the Club's football analyst.

RTID matchday magazine met up with analyst, Adam Smith, ahead of the Easter games to find out what his role is in the management team. Adam joined Rovers at the start of the League One promotion season under Dean Saunders then worked for Brian Flynn and now Paul Dickov. Adam can often be seen running down the stand steps at half time on his way to the changing rooms.

How did you get into sports analysis?

I started my career by first getting a Sports Science with Coaching degree at Sheffield Hallam University. Part of that course was analysis modules, which I really enjoyed. After this I did a master degree in Sports Science with Sports Analysis and then had a year’s internship with Doncaster Belles in the FA Women’s Super League. After all the academic degree side, the internship taught me a lot and was very beneficial on the practical side. Following that year and when I completed my Masters, I got a full time internship with Sheffield United. That was three years ago and I went with them to the play-offs at Wembley although they were unfortunately beaten by Huddersfield. 

Following these two internships, I was looking around and after a while a position came available here under Dean Saunders. Last season was my first season at the club and what a good one to start your full career by helping the club move up to the Championship.

That must have been satisfying to do that in your first season, especially breaking the away-wins club record?

It was a fantastic experience and my experience at Sheffield United during their promotion push helped me deal with it.  You get all the excitement and pressure that comes with it, which although I’d had a year in the league as an intern, it was an unbelievable first year. Getting the away form right with the celebrations and joy afterwards is all you can want in your first season under pressure.

Since you have been here, you have had three managers. All of who have differing styles, which must enhance your experience?

It’s been really good because I am constantly learning especially as this is the start of my career in football. Every single day I worked with them has helped me develop as a person with all their different ways of running the squad. It’s important in my job to work out quickly what they want and how they want my role to integrate within the team. I have to start by giving them everything but work out what they need to take from it, so that they get the best of what they want not only for the manager but the rest of the management team.

We have a very integrated management team here. Does that help you?

It’s been very good and they have all taken to the analysis side of it. I work a lot with Paul (Gerrard) and the goalkeepers Ross (Turnbull) Sam (Johnstone) and Jon (Maxted) to look at their games and training. My main role though is with the first-team squad working with first-team coach, Paul Butler, ahead of meetings.  It’s really good that all the management team buy into the use of analysis as it makes my role easier if not less stressful! This allows me to help take the club forward for the future.

What is your role in the week?

It obviously varies depending on whether we have a mid-week game or just Saturday-to-Saturday.  We usually start the week with a post-match briefing which I produce a stats package and present to the coaching staff. We pick certain bits out and look at the stats and clips. We then produce a package, which we can show the players. 

After Monday, it’s all about focussing on the opposition for the following Saturday’s game. It’s very important that we study the opposition whether it is by watching games they play or by watching DVDs of their last few. It’s all about making sure that the players do not come out and get surprised by the other club’s tactics. So whatever team the other side put out or formation played, we have every bit of information possible. 

I also work with individual players and there are certain ones who request clips of their play and we will go through them with the individual. More recently, some players have wanted more information about players they may face at the game. I love working on this, as my role has to produce lots of information to please lots of different people in different ways. 

What is your matchday role?

When the team sheets come in about an hour before kick off, we go through the opposition and the manager talks to the players on what they may face. I then go with Paul Gerrard to join the cameraman on the gantry, which at times can be quite a trek. I have a video feed on to my laptop using my analysis software plus Paul and I watch the game. We have contact with the bench so we can relay information down to the manager and coaches on what we see, such as shape and how the club are performing. What is really good is that the software I run allow us to have action replays instantly, which gives us a chance to look at certain parts of the play such as offsides, goals or corners to give accurate feedback to Paul (Dickov) down on the bench. You will often see him look up when something happens to get our opinion, so he is aware. By giving the bench instant accurate information they can adapt or change how we play to combat any threat. 

Does the software we use help you in this?

If the manager is thinking of changing tactics, systems or formations, it will give him information that backs up how he feels and give him a stronger argument to go ahead. I can provide him a video clip of any part of the game whether it be defending a corner or attacking one, which will allow him a better look at it than during the game. I often put together a stats package live, which will highlight weaknesses and strengths of the opposing side and us so they can adapt our play. We can relay this at half time to Paul and supply any information or video clips he may ask for. It is important that at half time if he needs information we can provide him it, especially if we have a decision we don’t agree with or have gone behind. The more information I can supply, the better he can evaluate and control the game. What you have to remember is that the other side will be doing the same so it’s a bit of a chess game trying to keep out playing your opposite number. As well as the manager, we can show the players any week spots of ours and the other side’s, which can help them exploit or tighten up the play. Showing them video clips gives them a visual look at part of the play, which they can easily react to. 

A lot of managers such as Paul are using analysis and this technical side of the sport more and more. This must be good for you?

It’s fantastic for me the way that sport is going with the analysis side continuing to grow. There is software coming out that can give you further information you can use to advise and supply to the manager. It’s increasingly part of the game now at all levels and I feel it will further develop as managers get more technical. Most managers are now incorporating this in to their style of managing plus players are using it to get the best out of their play to enhance their chances of making it as a professional. 

Do you see your understanding of the game and your role being enhanced as you work in the game?

I am lucky to work with some of the best and most experienced here, so day in day out I am learning more and more. I know I can learn from every single member of staff at the club to make sure I can be the best I can be. I love to go out and watch training to not only see what is going on just for the matchday, but also for my own development. It’s brilliant that the manager has brought in the staff he has as I am always learning and they are very good at their roles. For me every day is a learning day and I want to make sure Rovers are the best they can be and that we have the best ammunition for every game.

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