Sports Writing

After initially writing for well known football blogs as a hobby, I have recently started to marry my medical, technological, sports science and football expertise in order to write articles with a unique insight into various aspects of sport. I still enjoy writing about Manchester United and football in general and will continue to do so as long as people enjoy my work. I am a regular features contributor to The Sportsman (

Manchester United: An A-Z of 80 years of promoting youth (Duncan Edwards)

Today marks the 80th anniversary of Manchester United having an academy graduate in every single match day squad. That means for an incredible 3,883 consecutive matches United have involved a youth team player in the first team, a record dating back to October 1937. For context, the club with next longest run is Everton with over 1,000 consecutive games over a period of 21 years. For further comparison, there were six teams on the last weekend of August this season who didn’t have a single yout

Exploring the concept of footballing intelligence…

When we think about intelligence, one way we can look at it is through the executive functions (or cognitive control) of the individual. Executive function is an umbrella term for the neurologically-based skills involving mental control and self-regulation which allow us to manage ourselves and our resources in order to achieve a goal. These functions range from planning and attention to decision making and problem-solving skills. It’s easy to see how these can be attributed to footballers on th

In defence of Mourinho and “parking the bus”

A lot has been made of the way in which Manchester United approached their recent away fixtures against Liverpool in the Premier League and Benfica in the group stages of the Champions League. Various parts of the media, fans of other clubs and even some Manchester United fans have bemoaned Jose Mourinho’s pragmatism and apparent penchant for “parking the bus”. Some have gone as far as to say that United winning the league would be completely anti-football and totally undeserving because of the

Why it doesn't matter if you think Harry Kane is "world class" or not...

Harry Kane is in a rich vein of form and seems to have been for the last three years. Having shaken off the “one season wonder” tag, there are now increasingly louder voices calling for him to be considered “world class”, whatever your particular definition may be. The debates have raged on and, ultimately, they don’t really matter. The simplest reason is that the label “world class” is subjective and without defined parameters, thereby making any discussion moot. However, it’s worth exploring why it is being widely discussed and why each side of the argument is convinced of their opinion.

The United View - Man United vs Crystal Palace Preview

Q. What did you make of last season for United? Jose Mourinho’s debut season was by no means perfect but he ended up with two major trophies (although he would argue three) and qualified for the Champions League. He achieved his goal so in the end we have to be satisfied. I was lucky enough to attend the League Cup Final at Wembley and there is no better feeling than winning trophies and I would take winning the Europa League over finishing fourth every time. Obviously, we want to be winning le

Elite Athletes And Mental Strength: The Inseparable Connection

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going” What is mental strength? What exactly does it mean to be mentally tough in sport? These questions have yet to be definitively answered as they mean different things to different people but it is almost universally accepted that top-level athletes display high levels of mental strength, however that might be perceived.  The last decade has seen the idea of mental toughness attract a significant amount of attention from sports psychology researchers

Wearable Technology In Sports, Is It All That?

The mobile, technology and information revolution has impacted almost every industry in the recent decade. From healthcare to retail to banking industries, the push to capture, analyse and interpret data to give real time insights is driving behaviours and decision making across the board. This is no different in the sports industry with companies like Garmin and Fitbit creating wearables for amateur athletes and more specialist companies creating tracking wearables for elite professionals. Ther

A deep dive into the Manchester United 2017/18 squad

The transfer window has now ended with a frantic deadline day which will be remembered more for the deals that weren’t completed than those that were. After big money moves for the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Thomas Lemar, Virgil van Dijk, Ross Barkley and others were mooted, the most significant signing of deadline day was the £40m transfer of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Arsenal to rivals Liverpool. In all of this mayhem, Manchester United were conspicuous by their absence. The least busy person

Romelu Lukaku Central To Manchester United's Impressive Start

Throughout preseason and in his first three competitive matches for United he has occupied two defenders at a time with his sheer presence, helping to create space for runners to move into. Swansea countered this by playing a very defensive and compact 3-5-2 formation and they frustrated the Manchester United midfield runners. For the majority of the game the Swans defended deep and in numbers but as the match progressed they were forced to look for an equalising goal themselves. This stretched

Manchester United’s Tactical Flexibility And Central Strength

After the success Antonio Conte achieved with a 3-4-3 formation last season more teams are opting for three at the back in the Premier League than ever before. Liverpool, Spurs, City and even notorious “football purist” Arsene Wenger at Arsenal have all experimented well with the option. Manchester United have won their first two games of the Premier League season with consecutive 4-0 victories and Jose Mourinho named the same XI, in an unchanged 4-2-3-1 system. Whilst we have perhaps seen the d

Premier League Preview 2017/18: Manchester United

We’ve teamed up with Football365 to write club-by-club previews for the new season. Come this way for: Arsenal; Bournemouth; Brighton; Burnley; Chelsea; Crystal Palace; Everton; Huddersfield; Leicester; Liverpool; Man City; Man United; Newcastle; Southampton; Stoke; Swansea; Tottenham; Watford; West Brom; West Ham. It’s difficult to take too much from the opening day, but hosting West Ham may be a good test of whether Manchester United can consign last season’s ten tedious home draws to the hi

Have Sports Teams Created the Ultimate Health ecosystem?

Modern healthcare is often accused of lagging behind other industries with regards to integrating technology to improve patient care and outcomes. Sports medicine and the health ecosystem surrounding professional sports is bucking this trend and setting new standards in the use of integrated care and connected technology for monitoring and assessing athletes or patients.Professional athletes clearly represent an extreme end of the healthcare spectrum but the principles of a fully cohesive, multidisciplinary, connected team looking after an individual’s healthcare journey can be learned from. This approach not only encompasses treatment and management of illness (or injuries) but also focuses on prevention of injuries and optimisation of the athlete’s general health in order to optimise performance.

Deepest Red, A Manchester United Anthology

Deepest Red is a collection of writing about the myth, madness, and glory that is Manchester United Edited by lifelong United fan, and journalist, Brian Foley, it brings together writers, bloggers and journalists to provide fresh insight into the club’s history, pinpointing the defining moments that have created a global legend. From Sir Matt to Sir Alex, from standing on the Stretford End to dancing a jig in the Camp Nou, from The Babes to The Golden Generation, these are the stories that matter about the world’s most famous football team. My Chapter is written under a pseudonym (Joshua Major).

Statistics in Football - Examining the Impact of Injuries

Modern football coverage is rife with match statistics and player performance ratings with much stock placed on possession stats and passing accuracy. Ultimately, only one statistic matters on match day: goals scored. This clearly translates to the most important stat of all, league position. The more goals you score and the fewer you let in, the higher up the league you will find yourself. Obvious, right?! So why the obsession with possession and passing accuracy?!Leicester City are at the lower end for both with an average possession of 46% (rank 19th) and a passing accuracy of 71%, the lowest in the Premier League; yet they sit at the top of the table, 5 points clear of Spurs in second and joint top in the league scoring charts with Manchester City (at time of writing). Obviously there is much missing from this type of data pertaining to style of play and tactical set up with a counter attacking side like Leicester faring poorly in the aforementioned statistics making their use seem superfluous. Additionally, statistics such as chance conversion rates for a striker might point towards the finishing ability of an individual player but, again, ultimately the only important stat is the number of goals scored. Of course, these types of statistics can be used to support an argument but the reliance on them to provide insight on their own and to drive agenda and narrative is becoming increasingly prevalent within the mainstream press. The problem with the use of statistics in this way is that it is completely devoid of any scientific principle. Is there really a tangible difference between 2.4 shots per game and 2.1 shots per game for example? Rigorous statistical tests are applied in scientific research in order to ascertain whether there truly is a difference when comparing data sets. But in football we seem to simply take the face value numbers and run with interpretations to suit our narrative.So…in this increasingly data driven world is there a role for statistics to have a greater influence in football management? I’m talking about real data collection, vigorously assessing a theory driven by specific scientific research principles implemented by PhD level researchers. The answer is, of course, yes! And given that I’m a medic you’ve probably guessed that injuries and their effects on individual players and team performance is likely to be one of the best uses of data within football. One such study followed 24 football teams from 9 countries over an 11 year period, analysing injuries and their effect on outcomes and results. Unsurprisingly, they found that the more injuries a squad suffers the less successful they tend to be in terms of final league position and/or progress in European competition (as measured by UEFA Season Club Coefficient). Interestingly this study found that the injury burden had a universal effect regardless of who was injured; first team regulars, squad players, backups or youth players on the fringes of the squad. This makes for interesting reading as the focus has traditionally been on the 14-15 players that are likely to be considered first team regulars when in fact the entire 23 man (and more) squad needs to be managed and treated in the same way. An injury to a 3rd choice centre back is potentially not seen as a major burden as the first choice pair is available to play. However, there is less opportunity to rest these players and the cumulative match burden leads to fatigue, further risk of injury and lower performance levels. This type of insight can alter the way in which coaches manage their squads and ultimately can have a positive effect on performance. The biggest change being the development of injury prevention strategies as opposed to purely focusing on treatment strategies. Clubs now heavily invest in sports science and medical teams to help ensure that players are receiving the best possible advice. This, of course is the theory, but injuries will always be part of the game. The use of proper science and evidence based medicine can help to alleviate the effect they have on team performance. In this series of articles I will look at injuries, sports science and the role of medicine in football. We’ll also look at some of the worst injuries seen in football as well as some of the most bizarre! All with a scientific and medical hat on.

How Man United should line up against Spurs: FFT asks the experts

We're debating the strongest line-ups for the opening day. How do you see it going? An ex-player, prominent blogger and FFT editor look at the various permutations... "It’s an almost impossible task to predict Louis van Gaal’s tactics and formation, because he likes to vary them so much – and the new signings he’s made give him a lot of options and flexibility. This is what I think would be their strongest team overall, though, rather than the one that might start on Saturday. "I think we’re l
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