City's bold vision to harness big data

Pierre Lees-Melou and Billy Gilmour were not the only key summer signings for Norwich City

Pierre Lees-Melou and Billy Gilmour were not the only key summer signings for Norwich City - Credit: PA

Norwich City’s record transfer spend was only one part of their bid to stay ahead of the game in the Premier League, with a bold quest to harness big data. 

The Canaries’ £750,000 investment in the revolutionary ‘SoccerBot’ training aid, the first club in England to invest in that technology, is now up and running under the guidance of Dr John Iga, who joined the Canaries this summer as head of strategy and innovation. 

The Canaries’ first team squad return to Premier League action at Arsenal on Saturday but Iga, who was previously head of sport science for the FA, is part of an ambitious plan for the club to stay there. 

“It is about seeing where the marginal gains are and striving to be innovative. As a club we are different to our Premier League rivals,” he said. “They have different ways to find solutions, maybe spend more money.

"The way we are structured what goes in has to be effectively spent, to not only ensure we stay in the Premier League but to create a pipeline for young players to come through and play in the first team.  

“We will do that by identifying areas we can aggregate all those small advantages where we can be competitive. I would say it is about trying to ‘outsmart’ our opponents and out-think them to help us achieve that. 

NCFC Extra: Profile on Norwich City new boy Mathias Normann

"My role is bringing together our data into one strategy, and connecting all areas of the club from the first team right down to the academy. Delving deeper, understanding what we are doing differently and finding ways to try and leverage advantages to help our teams and players develop.” 

Iga’s wide-ranging brief has seen him already spend time in Spain with the club’s new shirt manufacturer Joma. 

“We want to optimise performance to find those marginal gains,” he said, speaking to the club’s Youtube channel. “The days of heavy, baggy shirts are long gone.

Most Read

"Such clothing would be invariably hot in warmer temperatures and that affects a player’s performance, both physically and cognitively.

"Now with this longer term partnership we can look to design, innovate and develop products that help us. 

“I worked at the FA as head of sports science across all 24 national teams, again, with that focus on consistent activity. 

"We explored using innovative ways for how we set up our teams in qualifiers and tournaments, and it was all about giving us the best possible advantages to be successful.

"More recently I was at Huddersfield where I was head of performance services, co-ordinating sports science, physio and nutrition across all the teams.” 

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter