With the transfer window opening next week and the 2020/21 season now not too far away [we hope] we thought it would be a good time to catch up with club analyst Jacob Blain at what is surely about to become one of the busiest spells of his year.
Speaking first about the last four months of lockdown and furlough, he said: “It has been really strange.
“Obviously we were due to play Grimsby, four months ago now, and we were all ready to set off to go to the game that weekend. Next thing we knew it was cancelled and here we are after all this time just about to come back in.
“I think my first day at work was Christmas Eve and we were straight into all of the games around that period. Then it was the January transfer window and looking for players, as well as doing the work that needs to be done on the opposition.
“We also needed to look at ourselves and what we were doing, so it was extremely busy when I first started. Then just as I really started to settle in the lockdown hit us, so it has been a weird period … and I’m back to square one now as we start all over again.”
“Fair play to the manager because as far as I know analysis is quite new to the club,” he told us. “He’s come in and identified it as something which could add to the work everyone does, and as soon as I found out he was looking for an analyst I jumped at it.
“I’m a big Carlisle fan anyway and I’ve been coming to games for many years, so it was something that fit perfectly as far as I was concerned. To be fair, Chris has been brilliant and I’m really thankful to him, Gav and David for giving me this opportunity.
“Having this kind of input to the team I support is superb. Like I say, I’ve been coming to games since the Conference season  and I like to think I know the club inside out. It means that if you get asked to do things outside of what you’d call your ‘job description’ or normal working hours then I don’t have a problem with that at all, because of the association I have with the club.
“I’m just buzzing that I’m here and I want to do everything I can to help us to improve and push on.”
Explaining more about the process of him coming into the club at the back end of December last year, he said: “I suppose it was a strange way for it to happen because I know Kit Man Col [Colin Nixon] quite well.
“I’m friends with his grandson and I got a call off him one day when he let me know that a position might be opening up. I think we were playing Grimsby at home on the following Saturday, and funnily enough I had a day off from my previous job, so I was going to be in Carlisle anyway.
“The manager gave me a ring and it all happened really quickly after that. I handed in my notice with Middlesbrough a few days later and I have to say that they were really supportive and understanding.
“They knew I was looking to move back home and that I was getting the chance to work for the club I’d supported all my life, and they didn’t stand in my way at all. When they asked how soon Carlisle wanted me to start and I told them ‘next week’ they told me to do whatever it was I needed to do.
“I was in under-18 football with them and it’s always quieter with that age group around Christmas, and they were comfortable with being short-staffed over the festive period because of that. Everyone over there was first class and I can’t thank them enough for the way they were with me.”
“I was with them for just over two years,” he confirmed. “That was my first job in analysis after I graduated from University, but I’d done little bits here and there prior to that. I was an intern with Newcastle United for a year, which was my first real taste of it, and thanks to Eric Kinder I’d managed to get a bit of work experience with Blackburn.
“Going from under-18 football to a first team environment has to be the aim for anyone in this area of the job. This is where the three points every Saturday and Tuesday really matter, so I had to jump at the chance.”
With that in mind, we wondered what the job of an analyst entails, in particular when it comes to helping the manager and his staff prepare for a first team game.
“The first thing I start with is the opposition information they need,” he said. “Generally I will watch the last four, five or six games, depending on the results they’ve had. That Grimsby game we were about to play is the one that’s freshest in my mind, and that was pretty much what I did for that game.
“I try to have a report on the gaffer’s desk from the Saturday before as quickly as possible, so they can read it when they go home after our game, and that gives them a bit of an idea of what we’re going to come up against.
“They can start to decide if they need to plan training around anything that’s been picked up. We watch clips based on the opposition at various points during the week, and we go through different aspects of how they play.
“It might be that they’re really good at set pieces, so we pick out some of the clips from that to show the lads. We usually do a pre-match video as well, which we show either the day before the game or on the morning, particularly if we’re at an away venue, so that the players have seen it before they get on the bus to go to the stadium.
“When it gets to Saturday, I film every game, then I clip it, again to help to highlight certain aspects and areas. The manager is very big on regains and retains, so I clip them so that he can see if we’re keeping the ball when we win it back, and things like that.
“There’s always something that’s needed. I might code attacking entries, for example, or look at whether we need to improve on defending crosses at the back post, or anything else the manager wants, depending on what he wants to focus on at that time.”
In the second part of our interview with club analyst Jacob Blain we talk about the part he plays in helping with player recruitment, and his input into highlighting areas the manager has designated for improvement.
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