“I suppose when you step back a bit and think about it, it is a bit mad. Like Ollie Watkins was one of the best players in the Championship last season, but I just saw him as Ollie, our striker.”
The world we live in revolves around data. Everyone bases everything these days on data.
It’s used in every business you can think of and in all walks of life.
In sport, and in particular football it is as important in the modern game as pretty much anything else.
No one can get on in football without ability, hard work and determination. But statistics, getting that extra 0.5 per cent advantage is sometimes the difference.
So the onus these days is on analysis and top quality analysts.
Joe Newton, a former apprenctice at Tranmere Rovers and professional footballer at Wrexham who has featured for teams in and around the North and Mid Wales is one of those top quality analysts, tasked with giving Championship Brentford that edge over their opponents.
Newton has been in post at The Bees for little over a year, and has been an integral cog in the Thomas Franks machine that almost led the London club to the Premier League.
The youngster cut his teeth in the Welsh Premier League, serving as first team analyst for The New Saints while completing a masters degree at Glyndwr University.
When the offer of Brentford came, it was too good to turn down for the former nippy winger, who has had to pinch himself at points over the last year.
“It has been great at a club like Brentford who know what they want from their analysis, and who put so much into it.
“When your mates are texting you saying, its mad we’re watching the manager on the tele and you’re getting to see him every day.
“And I suppose when you step back a bit and think about it, it is a bit mad. Like Ollie Watkins was one of the best players in the Championship last season, but I just saw him as Ollie, our striker.
“And with the manager I would see him as just that, my manager.”
The 25-year-old began his career in football as a nine year old at Tranmere Rovers, going all the way to up to become an apprentice.
Newton admits he knew deep down that he wasn’t going to be handed a professional contract at Prenton Park, with a football analysis seed already planted in his head.
“I knew I wasn’t going to get a professional, but it was still disappointing when you’re told because that is all you really know.
“Then I went to Wrexham and signed professional terms, and it gave me the option to do my degree at the university there, and we did a module in analysis and it went from there.”
Newton combined his studies with playing, going out on loan to Denbigh Town, Colwyn Bay, Newtown, Whitton Albion and Gresford.
But his eyes were now fixed and climbing up the analysis ladder, serving time with the FAW before working for The New Saints, who put the young winger through his masters degree.
He still found time to get his boots on, playing for FC Oswestry Town who played on the same ground as the Saints, until they folded earlier this year.
Then after the season began last year, Newton was given the surprising call that he had secured an interview at the then Griffin Park club.
And later on, to his shock, he discovered he had got the job and was on the way to making the transition from Welsh Premier League to the Championship.
“I didn’t expect to get it at all, knowing the amount of people who apply for these jobs.
“But I did and I just wanted to tell someone. My Mum and Dad were away that day and didn’t have signal, which was typical!
“So I just had to tell my brother I had got the job. It was a quick turnaround to get down there, and it was excitement and a bit of nerves going into it.”
Newton’s ‘debut’ for the Bees came away at Barnsley and after testing his feet in the opening few games, he was thrown in to his role and has never looked back.
He and the rest of the analysis team played an intergral role in Franks’ side climbing up the league in the latter stages of the campaign.
Giving an insight in to the day to day goings on, Newtown explained: “Things you would be doing for example after going to players before games with individual clips, showing them the player they would be up against.
“You’d maybe show the winger how the full back plays, which foot they like to go on, what they do more than anything, just to give them areas to exploit.
“And there is so much more to it, with watching games back and clipping things up for the manager and the coaches, who are responsbile for certain players.
“It’s funny, when I go to watch Liverpool with my dad now, before hand you’d be shouting at someone if they did something wrong.
“Now I’m thinking, don’t go out there, or he should have done that differently.
“You do it in games when you’re not working, even if you don’t realise it.”
Newton’s boss Franks is seen by the public as someone with a Stern demeanor, a hard task master.
But Newton reveals it couldn’t be further from the truth.
“He is a really good guy to work. He comes across in a really good way, he’s an upbeat guy and you know what he wants from you.
“He’s great around the place too.”
Brentford’s model in recent years has been to develop players at a low cost base and sell them on for a profit.
And it hasn’t half worked wonders.
Just this summer Ollie Watkins signed for Aston Villa for a figure believed to be around £30 million.
And having seen the prolific marksman on a daily basis, Newton is not surprised about the impact the striker is having at Villa Park.
“It’s great to see that level of player on a daily basis, they can be frightening.
“I’m not surprised with what has happened and how well he is doing, his ability and determination are top class.
“He has got such a good work rate and its not a surprise.”
After winning ten games on the bounce it looked for all the world like Brentford were going to pip West Brom to the second automatic promotion spot to the Premier League.
But after defeats in their final games Albion snatched the position back, to condemn the Bees to the play offs.
It had been a stark turnaround for Newton, who hails from Warrington, after spending his Saturday afternoons the season before on a gantry at Cefn Druids or Connah’s Quay.
Despite the late implosion, Newton insisted it was an achievement in itself.
“If you’d have said we’d lost two out of the last 12 then you’d have taken that.
“It was just the fact the wins came at the time they did, it was just the timing of them.
“If they had been like game four and five, it would be looked at a little different.
“It was disappointing, but it was a great experience and great to work at Wembley for the final as well.”
Just over a year on since his move into the big time, Newton is now settled living in the south and has become accustomed to life in the Championship.
Currently the Bees are sitting in mid table after last season’s heroics, and with a new ground and a few new players Brentford are aiming for another promotion push.
It’s a strange time in football this season, but according to the young analyst who has many years in the game ahead of them, it means anything can happen.
“It is going to be a tough season for everyone. You’ve seen with Liverpool and the injuries they are getting what can happen.
“That is just the case this season and how things will go. But it means everyone can beat everyone.
“The manager said last season we always have next season to go again, so we will wait and see.
“But with Covid-19 and everything that is going on, it is going to be a strange season.”