Working with the first team at Watford FC is a dream opportunity for good friends Billy Wright and Tom Bedford.
The MDX students are undertaking sponsored studentships with the club as part of their Masters’ in Sport Performance Analysis.
“Every day I am learning so much and have been given a lot of responsibility,” said Tom, whose undergraduate degree was in Computer Science at Leeds University.
“I learn a lot from speaking to people at the club about what information is useful for them, and from seeing what goes into the preparation for a match.
“I've been given the opportunity to work on a wide variety of tasks relating to both analysis and scouting. This has taught me a lot, and has given me a fascinating insight into how the club operates as well as thinking about how we can improve the use of data at the club.”
Tom says that his passion for analysis was sparked when he undertook a project related to event data in football.
“It opened my eyes to this whole world of analysis and made me realise that my skillset can actually be useful in that world," he added.
“I have always been a big football fan and a big fan of sports and always taken an interest in what goes on behind the scenes in that world, especially as I have a mathematical and a computer science background but it has always been a bit of a mystery to me in terms of how data is used at clubs.
“It never really crossed my mind that I could actually get into that industry and that computer-science related skills would be useful in football. But it is an industry that is growing a lot and more clubs are employing people to use data.”
Tom says the MDX course has consolidated his experience at Watford: "I am loving the course, there are so many great speakers that have come in and revealed insightful information about what they do and what is out there in terms of sports analysis and sports. Everything just seems so relevant.
“Being surrounded by people with so much experience and expertise is brilliant. The dream would be to get myself in the best position possible to stay in this industry, in football would be even better.”
Billy specialises in analysing set-pieces so works closely with Watford FC coaches and full-time analysts.
“We look quite closely at the pieces of the teams we are playing to work out how as a team we can be best set up to defend or attack,” he said.
“It’s brilliant to be part of Watford FC, I grew up playing football and watching football so for me to be involved through work was a big thing for me and it is something I have always been interested in doing.
“I have been given the opportunity to work in a first team environment with the staff, players and coaching staff which has been great, I would love for it to turn in to a full time job.”
Billy praised MDX for course content, facilities and the new West Stand home at StoneX.
“The Master’s at MDX was appealing due to the split between Performance Analysis and Data Analysis and the opportunities and contracts it would bring," he said.
"Other students have gone on to get full time jobs in sport which is brilliant.”
Dr Nimai Parmar, Senior Lecturer in Sport Performance Analysis said: "We are proud to collaborate with Watford FC to support their performance analysis and data/computer science provision by offering our students the opportunity to learn and grow within a professional sporting environment, putting what they learn on our course into practice.
“It's been a pleasure to see both Billy and Tom develop during their studentships and to also work with Miguel Rios and other colleagues at Watford who have demonstrated a real commitment and passion to developing the next generation of analysts through this partnership."