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Football film analysis part 2

This article follows on from Football film analysis part 1. For some time, I had thought that film could be used successfully to analyse sports, especially Football.  I had thought it out and decided that I would use a cameraman unused to filming football because I wanted him to do it my way and not the way in which he had become accustomed.

I needed to have the zoom lens fairly wide.  If the play was moving from right to left, I would need the ball to be on the extreme right of the frame rather than in the middle.  The reverse would apply if the play moved from left to right.  We did not have to identify the players, the manager would know perfectly well, who was who.

Football is a game of options and I thought it necessary to show what options the man on the ball had and what players off the ball were doing at any given time.

Ron Greenwood

Ron Greenwood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1969, when I was sure that I had the right formula, I wrote to every First Division Manager, Charlton in the Second Division and to Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow.

I received four replies: Bill Nicholson said thanks but no thanks, Eddie Firmani, South African manager of Charlton Athletic said “O.K., Come along”, Bertie Mee, Manager of Arsenal say “Come and see me to discuss the matter”.  Ron Greenwood of West Ham said that it was a mad idea “things never happen exactly the same in football”.  I could have proved him wrong on that score, but he went on to become one of the most successful England team managers.

When I got to see Bertie Mee, with his assistant Don Howe, Bertie said “You are preaching to the converted”.  He had already bought a special sixteen millimetre projector which enabled him to slow the picture or even inch individual frames.

He wanted several matches covered and he arranged to build a camera platform on the roof of the East Stand.  From there, we had a magnificent view of the playing area.  The position would have been quite hopeless for broadcasting, but it was ideal for analysis.

Norman Fisher – BUFVC: Norman Fisher Collection

The cameraman I used was Norman Fisher of Movietonews, he had filmed football before, many times, but I could not find anyone available that had no experience of Football filming.

By using the Cameflex camera, Norman Fisher was able to produce good quality individual frames, necessary for a single frame analysis. This was helpful considering we would be shooting in January on a damp afternoon. Using high speed black and white reversal film, the Cameflex camera allows that the exposure of the individual frame could be reduced from the fiftieth of a second norm.  At a fiftieth of a second, any movement by way of action in front of the camera would result in a slightly blurred image.

What was remarkable concerned the footage we shot was that we had five magazines loaded for the Cameflex.   Each magazine held 400 feet of film with a running time of ten minutes 40 seconds.  I decided that we would switch off every time the ball went out of play to conserve film stock.  The unusual part was that in each match we used the five magazines to within a few feet of the end of the last roll.  It showed that, in a football match, there is about fifty minutes of actual play.

Since then I have always thought that a football match should be played for twenty-five minutes of actual play for each half.  That would stop the arguments about the “time added” after each half of today’s matches.

The façade of the East Stand, on Avenell Road,...

Highbury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I would take the processed film down to Highbury where I felt quite odd helping Arsenal while being a Spurs supporter.  There I would sit while Bertie screened the film.  He was thrilled to bits, especially with the way we had shot it.

While we were watching, Bertie suddenly stood up shouting “I‘ve got the little sod”.

He stopped the film and showed me that George Armstrong, their left winger, had run down the wing while always looking toward the opposing goal. “Look” he said, “He has turned his back on the play”. “Now I can show him”.  The fact that he could show him proved successful.  In fact any fault by a player was accepted by the player once he saw that the event was captured on film.

Bertie Mee did me the honour of asking me what I thought of how his team was playing.  I have always had something to say about how the game should be played.  The match we were looking at was that against Chelsea who won 3 – 0.

At the time, Arsenal were inclined to have everyone back in defence except for a lone striker.  When they cleared their lines, they would invariably clear the ball directly to an opposing player.  A player coming out of defence with the ball had no-one to pass to except the lone striker who was usually marked by, at least, two players.

I said to Bertie “You need an animal you don’t have”.  “I think that you need someone to burst out of defence in anticipation that the ball is about to be cleared”.  “The defender would be able to pass to that man who would then have two options”. “He could pass to the striker or hold the ball long enough for others to come out of defence into an attacking formation”.

Bertie said “Very interesting”. Don Howe made an excuse and left.

From the film we supplied, this problem was patently obvious.

Now, I am not going to say that I had anything to with what followed, but Bertie Mee moved George Graham into a position where, in defence, he took up a position just outside the Arsenal penalty area and when the lines were cleared, he ran into clear space and received a pass from defence.  He was then able to hold the ball until his team mates had come out to provide further options.  The following season Arsenal did “The Double”.  Could I have made a difference ?

Bertie Mee would screen the film a few times on a Monday Morning.  He would then prepare a report for himself.  On Tuesday mornings the first team squad would sit through the film while Bertie gave them his comments.  On Wednesday mornings, the youth team players were given their screening which was followed by open discussion.  He made good use of the film.

It took football managers a long time to appreciate the value of analysis in coaching their players.

It is well-known that managers of all league clubs now screen videos of their matches, in fact the analysis of football has been an industry in itself for a long time.

However, I was, possibly, the first.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2012.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thank you for such a really interesting post. The history of film analysis of sports would be a fascinating one if someone was willing and able to take it on. Good also to see the great Norman Fisher mewntioned, and George Armstrong – my favourite player when I was young (even if he did turn his back on play).

    July 10, 2012
    • Thank you for your comment. It would indeed be interesting to see a study of film/video analysis. I have followed the football history which showed a great reluctance of managers to become involved, but, in other sports, such as golf, tennis and cricket, analysis seems to have been welcomed and used to advantage.

      I might have a look to see what information is available concerning analysis in sport generally.

      I will let you know.

      July 11, 2012
  2. Great article Terence., really interesting to see what went on 50 years ago at the top level when people were doing ground breaking things.

    Good luck


    May 30, 2014

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