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James Parker

James ParkerAcademy Analyst, Charlton Athletic Football Club

MSc Performance Analysis, 2013

What made you choose Middlesex University?

The location of the university as London is a vibrant city, as well as the experience and knowledge of the lecturers.

What attracted you to your course and made you apply?

It was the next step in my pursuit of becoming a performance analyst at a professional football club. Many analysts currently working at football clubs in the Premier League, Championship and at the FA have been taught by the lecturers at Middlesex University.  The lecturers are very knowledgeable, have a lot of experience and are passionate.

The course combines theory and practical placements within sports industries and the lecturers have many contacts in different sports and can help students find placements.

The course also contributes towards gaining additional qualifications such as International Society of Performance Analysis of Sport (ISPAS) certification and students have the opportunities to attend conferences in different countries.

What aspects of your course did you enjoy most?

Learning how to use software specific to the industry, such as Dartfish and Focus, and using this to produce an analysis of Barcelona's strengths and weaknesses and a biomechanical analysis of Cristiano Ronaldo's knuckleball free kick.

What is your fondest memory of life at Middlesex?

Going to the INSHS International Christmas Sports Scientific Conference in Hungary with others on my course. I spent most of the time drunk but still managed to attend the presentations and explore the town where we stayed!

What one piece of advice would you give to a prospective student interested in studying at Middlesex?

Work hard but make sure you enjoy yourself. University is more than studying so make sure you experience other parts of uni life.

How did your course and time at Middlesex help you to get where you are professionally today?

Many job specifications for a performance analyst include having a postgraduate degree. The course is more specific to the role compared to undergraduate degrees in sport science, which are more general. Job specifications also ask for experience in using sports analysis software, video editing software, Excel and of presenting. All of these elements are covered by the MSc Performance Analysis course.

Why did you choose the career you studied for?

I have only ever been interested in a career in football and since I did not make it as a player I wanted to do the next best thing and rub shoulders with them!

What are the pros and cons of working within your professional field?

The pros are that it does not feel like a job as I get to watch football matches and work with people who have the same interest as me. The main con is working unsociable hours, especially weekends!

How did you get your foot on the career ladder post university?

One of the course units was a work placement. At the end of the season I was offered a full time job at the club where I had completed this.

What has been your defining career break or highlight to date?

My career-defining break was the introduction of the EPPP by the Premier League. The new academy structure meant that to achieve a certain status clubs had to employ specific staff, one being a performance analyst. This was introduced just as I finished my placement.

My career highlight was when we played against Man Utd U18 in the FA Youth Cup quarter final at Old Trafford. Unfortunately we lost 3-2 in the last minute of the game but it was a great experience.

What does the future hold for you?

I hope to work for a first team, either analysing future opposition or playing a part in recruiting players. I would also like to work abroad at some stage in order to learn another language and experience a different culture before hopefully returning to my home city.

What are the top three career tips you would give to current students and recent graduates?

Gain as much experience as you can, ideally while you are studying as a lot of internships are not paid. Make sure you get quality experience, learning new things and don't just end up doing the same thing every week. During your work placement, network and build contacts with analysts at the other clubs you play.

It is a very competitive industry so you need to work hard to stand out from other candidates. Don't give up if you are unsuccessful with applications.

Lastly, you need to have a good sense of humour and be able to take a joke!

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