Assistant manager speaks about how data is supporting the staff’s belief that Vale’s performances have been moving in the right direction in the opening three months of the League One campaign.
- Andy Crosby | “We keep a positive mindset because we know we are doing a lot of things really, really well”
- Port Vale assistant manager on how data is supporting analysis of Vale’s performances, the important role of the club’s supporters and looking to finish October with a positive result
- Crosby: “Our supporters make a big difference; they can see the progress of the club and the progress of the team and hopefully we can attract more people and the crowds continue to grow.”
Port Vale assistant manager Andy Crosby says the staff are maintaining a positive mindset within the first team squad by reminding the players they are doing so much, so well on their return to League One.
Following an excellent 1-0 win at Cambridge United, Darrell Clarke’s side were narrowly edged out by League One high-flyers Ipswich Town in midweek, having enjoyed a four-match unbeaten run in all competitions prior to the defeat to the Tractor Boys.
When asked whether statistics – like Expected Goals [xG*] – influence the backroom staff at the Vale, Crosby explained that a combination of personal judgement and experience combined with data, is a healthy approach to analysing performance.
“We are really aware of the statistics and data,” Crosby explained. “It is really important when you are in a results-based business that you have to look at the process, because you can’t always win.
“Sometimes things go out of your control, in terms of how you win or lose a game of football, so we are more than aware of the data, constantly reviewing our own performance and feeding back to the players.
“We have to keep the players in a positive mindset because we are doing a hell of a lot of things really, really well and the data reflects that.
“I think the data is a back up to what you see; if you make a judgement, does the data back up your own judgement?”
Crosby highlighted how Brentford played a role in opening his eyes to the importance of data, while he was working at Hull City in 2018.
“I remember a few years ago, I was working in the Championship with Hull and we beat Brentford,” he added. “They had lost eight games in 10 but they were delighted with how they were playing. It just wasn’t happening for them at that moment in time; they were creating chances but they just weren’t taking them.”
Brentford lost just twice in the 13 league games that followed that defeat at Hull in December 2018 and have since gone on to win promotion to the Premier League following two top six finishes in the seasons that followed.
“They are a very data-driven football club and you only have to look at where they are now - there is no doubt the data is important; it is a good way for us to look at the process and how we are trying to win games. It is constantly evolving our team and our players.”
Of more significance to the Vale has been the role of the club’s supporters, with an average home league attendance of 8,496 to date this season, the club’s highest since the 1994/95 First Division campaign. 2,700 supporters also travelled to back the Vale to our first away league win at Derby in 99 years, before another 732 supporters made the trip to Cambridge last weekend.
“It makes a big difference,” Crosby said. “Our fans are now coming to the ground expecting entertainment, expecting bigger away followings and a group of players who are giving everything every week. If you come to the ground every week as a supporter with the guarantee that the players who are representing your club are giving everything, that is all you can ask for.
“Our supporters can see the progress of the club and the progress of the team and hopefully we can attract more people and the crowds continue to grow.”
Clarke’s side have navigated a challenging October well to date, and end the month with Saturday’s visit of Lincoln City to Vale Park before kicking off November on Tuesday with a rearranged trip to Wycombe Wanderers.
On the Vale’s progress throughout October, Crosby added:
“We looked at this group of fixtures at the start of this month and thought on paper it would be really challenging with Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County and Ipswich Town, and Wycombe who were in the Championship last season.
“If we can get a good points return in the next couple of games, it would have been a really good month for us.”
*For those not familiar with the concept, xG weights the quality of chances created and conceded by a team within a game to give an outcome on which team performed better within the match. xG measures the quality of a chance by calculating the likelihood that it will be scored from a particular position on the pitch during a particular phase of play. This value is based on several factors from before the shot was taken. xG is measured on a scale between zero and one, where zero represents a chance that is impossible to score and one represents a chance that a player would be expected to score every single time. (https://theanalyst.com/eu/2021/07/what-are-expected-goals-xg/)