Glen Preston Interview John O’ Shea
Glen Preston is someone who has a very strong knowledge of all things football and throughout our discussion that clearly comes across.
Someone who is vastly skilled as a tactical analyst, first-team coach and a scout, Preston are currently doing work for the likes of Millwall, Blackburn Rovers Ladies and Guiseley AFC.
Preston: “So for Millwall, I am a scout and I am responsible for the Yorkshire region. So essentially we have people above my station that have data modelling and flag up players that need to be looked at.”
Preston: “I will go to games and produce evaluations, reports or come back and look at the video at various different aspects of their performance.”
Preston: “That is to see if he fits the criteria set out in a player profile document, that sort of identifies all of the set criteria players in set positions need to have to be what you would describe as a Millwall player. So we evaluate players across that.”
Preston: “I have been fortunate as well that I am doing a lot more games now across Europe. So I am looking a lot more at the likes of Bundesliga 2, Swedish Premier League, Belgian Premier League.”
Among the other clubs, Glenn also does some work for is Blackburn Rovers Ladies, who are currently plying their trade in the FA Women’s Super League 2 (WSL 2).
He provides a good insight into the differences between his roles and the resources which are available at Millwall compared to the likes of Blackburn Ladies.
Preston: “It is very different with Blackburn because I do a bit of everything. The lower down the pyramid structures you get, you don’t have the budgets to have analysis teams that they would have at the top.”
Preston: “We can’t really afford to get ahead of recruitment, data scientist, data analyst and fill every single box.”
Preston: “So you end up with somebody like myself who does multiple tasks and multiple roles. Whilst my role with Blackburn is opposition analysis and really doing that, I also mix it in with data science as well. So I will look at the analytics of the opposition or of the player.”
Preston:“Now where it is difficult working within the women’s structure is there isn’t a data provider like Opta or Wyscout that is providing a huge resource of information on opposition teams or players.”
Preston: “Essentially I have to create a lot of these structures myself. For the last four or five years, I have done a lot of research in the women’s game on creating expected goals models, I have done a lot of research on collecting analytics and data on players.”
Preston: “So we can try to understand outside WSL 1, we can get a baseline of each position, what the strengths of players are at each level, what we might expect a good player at those standards.”
Preston:“So that when we have our own players, we have got a baseline for top-end range. Say we have got a left-back, what does a top range left back look like at WSL 2, WSL 1, the third tier, what does that look like and where does our player sit amongst those.”
Preston: “We have to collect that all ourselves and that obviously is very time-consuming because we don’t have a data provider who does that.”
Preston: “So that is the difference between the roles at somebody like Millwall, where I can go online and look at Wyscout and all the data on any individual I am going to look at is already present.”
Preston: “If I want to look up Jaden Sancho, look at how many dribbles he does or passes into the box, there is thirty, forty, fifty different criteria that are measured on Wscout and we can look at exactly what he does.”
Preston:“Within the women’s game there isn’t that equivalent. Only in WSL, there is the equivalent. So we have to go and create that ourselves as best we can.”
You get the impression from a few minutes in Preston’s company that he is a very passionate man about football.
As to what he feels is the most important aspect with regards to football analysis, he discusses:
Preston: “I think the thing with data collection and things like tactical analysis is there is almost no glass ceiling to it.
Preston: “Once you start collecting, it is very easy to start collecting more information. It is not really about the quantity, it is very much honing in on the quality.”
Preston: “Essentially to have an effective analysis team, you need to have a really good working relationship with the management team. That is because you need to understand what it is they value and what it is they don’t value.”
Preston: “The sooner that you get to understand the managers you are working for, it becomes a lot easier to provide them with their exact needs.”
Preston: “At first when you work, you feel you have to provide them with everything and you feel you have to cover every single base and every single detail.”
Preston:“Eventually, after several weeks and months working with a particular manager, you realize they just want a three-page document that has A, B and C on it, how can I win or how can I prevent myself from losing to this opposition.”
Preston: “Really they are the questions the managers want answering. If you can offer them solutions in those areas, that is pretty much all they want to know.”
Through his YouTube channel, The Inverted Fullback Glenn provides some good tactical insight and analysis on a number of footballing topics.
Preston: “I was not internet savvy six or seven years ago. I set up just a YouTube channel at the time, which wasn’t the Inverted Fullback at the time.”
Preston: “It was a channel essentially just for the team I was coaching at the time, which I think was Huddersfield Town Ladies and were in the third tier of English football.”
Preston: “I wanted to show them what is known as elite level modelling. Show examples of what the best team in the world do and how we can replicate those sort of ideas.”
Preston: “So at the time I created a video on Bayern Munich, who Pep Guardiola had just taken over at the point. I wanted to show them different ideas and elite level modelling of playing out from the back.”
Preston: “What I didn’t realize was I thought I made the video so that it was private to us and the players. But I had made it public and I didn’t know anything about this. I had not been on YouTube for six months when I came to another video.”
Preston: “The next thing I saw was this video had gotten 50,000 views and 500 likes and it was crazy a little bit. There were comments underneath saying can you do more and there is nobody providing this content now.”
Preston: “At that point, there wasn’t. If you cast your mind back six or seven years, there was nobody providing analysis in tactical detail online.”
Preston: “Now it is inundated and saturated and you have got people on Twitter providing your analysis needs.”
Preston: “So at the time, it was quite new and fresh. I thought to myself what a great way to learn, grow a channel and it forces me to have to engage in the game and study it a little bit more.”
Preston: “I thought it was fantastic for that. It made me study coaches all around the world such as Roger Schmidt, Mauricio Potchettino,Thomas Tuchel. Different types of coaches I had to study to keep the channel active and going. “
Preston: “Throughout the years it has grown fairly substantially. It is got close to near 16,000 subscribers and 4 million views.”
Preston: “So it has been quite a success from my point of view, for something I would just see as a little bit of a hobby on the side when I get time to invest in it. What I look for with it is that it has just got to be something different. A recent one I did was on Borussia Dortmund.”
Preston: “There was a nice narrative on following Favre as a coach and what might make him unique from all of the other coaches.”
Preston: “It wasn’t just looking at Borussia Dortmund and focus on how they play from a tactical standpoint. There is more of a storyline behind it and that is what I enjoy about doing videos on that channel.”
Those videos on The Inverted Fullback YouTube illustrate the knowledge and insight Preston has picked up over the years.
As to what advice he would give any aspiring football analysts or coaches out there, Preston adds:
Preston: “If I look back on what I have done over the last 10 years is, first of all, I have studied the game.”
Preston: “I think that is imperative. You have got to have knowledge of the game and that is most essential. Whether that means going out and reading as many books as you can, in my case it was that, but combined with studying managers.”
Preston: “So I would have watched games and studied particular styles of play. Not just the most popular, sometimes I think it is important to go and look at different cultures and different teams across Europe. Try to gain a greater knowledge of the small details.”
Preston: “Outside of that, get a mentor. A mentor is of huge importance, somebody who can speed up a learning process and pass on that information to you. If you want to break in at a top-level, you need to have that knowledge so that you will be taken seriously.”
Preston: “But you are going to have to be willing to give a lot back before people start opening doors for you.”
Preston: “So if you can find a mentor and a club in which to gain work experience, that will enhance your CV and as you get better and your reputation grows, more doors will start to open for you.”
Finally to conclude, what does Glen Preston love about football the most?
Preston: “Obviously you love winning, but I think it is winning in a certain way and a certain style.”
Preston: “I don’t think there is anything more satisfying from a coaches point of view then really going into detail on your opposition and understanding them, seeing a way that you can beat them.”
Preston: “Then when that transfers onto the pitch and happens, there is an unbelievably satisfying feeling. I also really enjoy trying to understand what wins in football. I think that is why I am sort of a mixture of a coach and an analyst.”
Preston: “That is because my desire is to try and understand the numbers, trying to understand the people combined. Seeing if there is some sort of hidden secrets there that can help people win.”