Keates Lands a Big Signing

Want another reason to donate to the Build The Budget campaign? Would it help if I was to reveal to you that Dean Keates has already made a key signing which will ensure that your money will be spent wisely in the Summer?

There’s a lot of justified optimism around the club, and it’s clear that Keates, a man who understands the need for thorough preparation, won’t spend the extra money he’s given recklessly. To that end he has already ensured he has a key man by his side: an important influence on next season’s fate is Liam Partyn.

Partyn has been analysing matches for Keates since his appointment as coach. He would have done the same service for Gary Mills, if Keates’ predecessor had wanted such a service.

Keates is methodical and modern in his approach. His squad is accumulated carefully, each signing selected after careful consideration of his ability to fulfil an important role alongside his existing team mates. The galvanising effect of his January signings has shown this.

Furthermore, his preparation is careful. Opponents are unlikely to take him by surprise because he uses his data analysts judiciously. Signings, scouting and post-match analysis is done properly now.

Contrast that with the situation before his arrival. The offer of footage of our upcoming opponents fell on deaf ears, as “it should be them who worry about us”. Which is all very well when you’re Chelsea (not that Antonio Conte wanders blindly into matches anyway!) but the side Mills put together last Summer wasn’t quite of that calibre! Indeed, there was a point where it seemed he might have been trying to construct Welling’s second eleven from last season.

Mills was good at reading a game and making remedial alterations. He squeezed quite a few home points out by doing exactly that, the win over Sutton being a point in hand. But the problem with remedial work is it’s something you have to do when things have gone wrong. I prefer Keates’ approach of trying to make sure nothing goes wrong in the first place.

That’s where the careful use of data can come in handy, of course. Arsenal showed the value which clubs at the top end of the world game place on getting the analysis right when they paid $4 million to buy StatDNA, a company they had previously paid a quarter of a million a year to for exclusive access to their work.

The big clubs see data analysis as the way forward and are willing to spend big bucks to protect any edge they have in the market. At our level, the analysis is much more patchy, so the advantages we can claim by being ahead of the game are much larger.

The club has access to the full ninety minutes of every single National League match played this season. Mills wasn’t interested in using it to scout opponents or players; he preferred to trust his eye and his contacts. It was an old school approach which, married to a light coaching schedule, left us in a hole.

Keates’ modern mentality got us out of that hole, and I’m happy to embrace the change. Partyn’s role in helping Keates to run the rule over prospective signings and upcoming opponents will be crucial next season. His work is also an extra guarantee that money pledged to Build The Budget will be spent well.

This is my column from last week’s Leader. It forms part of the paper’s comprehensive pre-match coverage every Friday, featuring interviews, an in-depth look at the opposition and lots of statistical analysis. All content in the column (c) www.leaderlive.co.uk.

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