Football Reading: Books & Magazines for Data & Performance Analysts

Fit for Every Game – Damian Roden

Damian Roden is one of the most respected performance coaches of the last 15 years. After starting his career as a fitness coach for Bolton Wanderers in the days of Sam Allardyce, he went on to work as Head of Sports Science at Blackburn Rovers, Manchester City, and Head of Performance at the FA of Wales. He’s also worked at Stoke City, Seattle Sounders and Anderlecht. It’s an impressive CV. Roden also has a BSc in Sports Science and a MSc in Exercise & Nutrition. 

Released in late 2021, Fit for Every Game is a guide to keeping players in the best physical condition for the maximum number of games and training sessions, something that is made especially important by the packed schedule of the modern game.

The origins of the book lie in Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Man City. The new owner wanted each department to report on how they contribute to the success of the team. As Head of Sports Science, Roden began putting together a document that outlined his philosophy, looking at planning, prevention, conditioning and regeneration.

Fit for Every Game has evolved from this blueprint, explaining in detail Roden’s methods for keeping player’s as fit and injury-free as possible. It draws on his experience working with top coaches and managers such as Allardyce, Mark Hughes and Raymond Verheijen.

The book includes excellent visuals, stunning graphics, and practical tools. At over 400 pages this is an excellent addition to any football professional’s library.


Available online from the Fit for Every Game Website

Outside the Box: A Statistical Journey through the History of Football – Duncan Alexander

The rise of data is one of the most significant changes to the way football is played, coached, and watched. Vast amounts of statistics are now collected from matches and training sessions and data analysis is having an impact both on and off the pitch, from recruitment to tactics. Even mainstream TV shows like Match of the Day now use stats such as expected goals.

It wasn’t always this way.

In Outside the Box, Duncan Alexander draws on statistics to tell the story of the first 25 years of the English Premier League, season by season. Along the way, other topics are also covered, including chapters on Lionel Messi and the worst title defences. 

The book starts with a great overview of the history of football data from the early Victorian days of the sport up to the modern era, looking at the work of pioneers such as Charles Reep. It really helps put the use of data into an historical context: data analysis hasn’t just sprung from nowhere.

Duncan Alexander is well-known on social media as the co-founder of the “OptaJoe” Twitter account, which has over a million followers and has helped popularise football data and analysis. This talent for reaching a wide audience is reflected in the book. He’s someone who is good at making football data fun and easy to understand.

Outside the Box is a really good introduction for anyone new to the subject. It’s also a great example of how statistics can increase our understanding of the history of the game.


Available online from Amazon UK.


football coaching books

Glory Magazine

Combining football and travel, Glory is a glossy high-end magazine that showcases alternative football cultures and unusual destinations. It’s the perfect read for anyone interested in world football who wants to know more about what’s going on beyond the usual big leagues. It seeks out the beautiful and glorious parts of the global game that are normally overlooked.

Glory was set up by Lee Nash, Andy Lawn, and Ryan Mason (a photographer from Norwich, not the former Spurs midfielder!). It’s now sold in over 50 countries, costing just £10. 

One of the best football videos we watched in 2021 was a collaboration between Glory and Umbro called Four Corners. The short film looks at Eriskay FC, a community club that plays in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. The video sums up what the magazine is about: a passion for football in stunning locations.

Featuring fantastic photography and insights into where your next football trip might take you to, Glory is a unique magazine that’s well worth a read.

Available online from the Glory website


SHUKYU Magazine

SHUKYU is a Japanese magazine that focuses on the cultural and social sides of football. Each instalment has a theme that gives the issue its name.

The magazine first came out in May 2015 with the Roots Issue. From the start, the design of SKUKYU has been part of its appeal, due to its bold use of images, photo essays, and abstract illustrations that one reviewer has gone as far as describing as “Kandinsky-like.” It’s not often that a football magazine gets compared to the work of one of the geniuses of modern art.

Since then, themes have included identity, youth, and women’s football. The Technology Issue looked at the impact of the rise of technology both on and off the pitch, from players having to be aware of VAR to fans watching matches on their smartphones. The Life Issue featured people who use football-based activities to combat important social issues such as mental health, poverty, and racism.

The most recent edition is the Future Issue, which, while admitting that the future of football is hard to predict, focuses on the power and potential of the sport within society.

If you can’t read Japanese, don’t worry, SHUKYU comes with an English translation booklet.

Available online in the UK from Patterns of Play

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong – Chris Anderson and David Sally

“Be warned: The Numbers Game will change the way you think about your favourite team or player, and change the way you watch the beautiful game,” says Billy Beane in one of many impressive endorsements from famous names that this book has received. 

Beane, of course, is the man whose use of data analysis during his time as general manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team was the basis for the hit book and film Moneyball. He brought success to the team by focusing on the important statistics that other people were overlooking. In The Numbers Game, Chris Anderson and David Sally bring a similar approach to football, showing how the numbers that have generally been ignored actually help to give us a much better understanding of the game.

Both Anderson and Sally are academics, but this isn’t a dry, abstract read. Instead it looks at common assumptions about the game and sees whether they stand up to data analysis. Do you think that teams are more likely to concede just after they’ve scored? Well, you might want to think again. Of course, not everything you think you know about football is wrong, but this book does a good job at showing that data can often help us achieve a far more accurate understanding of what happens in football.

The book was originally published in 2013, and although an updated version was released for the 2014 World Cup, football changes quickly and the book is now becoming slightly behind the times. It’s still worth a read, though, for it’s one of the books that has most helped to spread the idea that football data is worth looking at. You’re still likely to learn a thing or two that will make you see the game in a new way.

RRP: £10.99

Available online from Amazon UK


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