City ace Sargent is a poster boy for the SoccerBot
- Credit: Archant
Norwich City forward Josh Sargent is already one of the first headlines stories of the ground-breaking SoccerBot officially unveiled on Thursday at Colney.
The Canaries have become the first professional club in England to install the state-of-the-art technology at their training ground, which its German creators suggest is key to developing the stars of the future.
SoccerBot CEO and founder, Daniel Held, was at Colney on Thursday as part of an event that included majority shareholders Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones cutting the ribbon on the latest phase of the training ground upgrade.
Held revealed City’s summer signing Sargent was one of the stand out performers in the early days of the cutting edge virtual simulator, when he was an unheralded youngster at Werder Bremen.
“About three years ago we did a demonstration for Werder Bremen in Leipzig, and Frank Baumann, the club’s sporting director, brought two young players to test the system out,” said Held. “One of them was Josh.
"When he started to play we were instantly amazed how effortless he was, how well he was performing the tasks.
"We heard that Frank then told someone at Werder Bremen on that day he realised Josh would make it to the first team. That was pretty cool.
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“A couple of a months later he got his first Bundesliga appearance and scored with his first touch. We didn’t train him it, it was a trial so we won’t claim credit but, seriously, it shows how the software can also be used for scouting as well as match analysis or development.
"We can create laboratory conditions, so the same task is performed by each player in the same conditions, at same distance, with the same ball and same measurements. After one or two minutes you can already have a very good idea about the player.
"Maybe on the pitch you would need to watch them in two or three games to have that same idea. That was the cool thing for us. We could instantly see that Josh had the potential to be a great player and he went on to prove it.”
Some of City’s current academy crop performed a demonstration of the innovative technology in front of an assembled gathered that included the Dr John Iga, the club’s recently appointed head of data and innovation.
Iga is in overall control of developing a SoccerBot training strategy for use by Daniel Farke’s squad down to the youngest academy talent.
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The former FA sports science gurus is no doubt the invention could be a ‘game changer’.
“I think so if you break it down and start thinking about these key cognitive skills that are necessary for performance,” he said. “If we speak about the brain, you can talk about Zidane, Lampard, Gerrard, Messi, de Bruyne, all these players have these period cognitive skills.
"The game is only going to get quicker, it's not going to slow down so players need to become quicker at processing that information quickly to make good decisions, to make the right decisions and to inform how they play on the pitch.
“I see this giving us a massive advantage in being able to train those key facets that are going to be important for future performance, and be systematic in terms of being able to see improvements in how the brain functions.
“There has been a good body of work around this area in terms of research and academic focus but something like the SoccerBot brings it more to reality in a better, sports-focused kind of way.”
Iga admits he has been impressed at the pace of change overseen by Stuart Webber since starting his new role in the summer.
“Coming into a football club the first thing is you need to get knowledge, to understand how the club works,” he said. “Some good work is being done here. Some good work that perhaps I didn't realise how good it was until I started asking the right questions to get under the bonnet.
"I think the club is in a very strong position to make progressive long term development. In many areas of the operations I think for sure that we are ahead of the curve.
“For us, it is not about coming to work and doing the same.
"The same will not be good enough. We have to be different, we have to innovative in our operations. My role is about looking to those new horizons, trying to anticipate change, anticipate where the game is going in years to come and trying to put measures in place.”