Edwards & Simpson pay tribute to England penalty project after wins

Rob Edwards and Paul Simpson both worked with England's age group teams

Rob Edwards and Paul Simpson both worked with England's age group teams

LUTON TOWN manager Rob Edwards and Carlisle counterpart Paul Simpson paid tribute to the Football Association’s work on penalties after their teams won shoot-outs to earn promotion this weekend.

The Hatters beat Coventry City 6-5 on penalties on Saturday to win the Championship play-off final, while Carlisle beat Stockport 5-4 in their League Two final shoot-out.

Afterwards, both Edwards and Simpson revealed they had drawn on work done by former FA Game Insights Chris Markham in their penalty preparation. Edwards had previously been England Under-16s boss, while Simpson led England's U19s and U20s, taking the latter side to a World Cup win in South Korea in 2017.

After his side's triumph today, Simpson said: “I want to give the FA a lot of credit here. In my time there we had a guy from the analysis department called Chris Markham who did a huge study on penalties and how to go about it.

“He came up with this thing ‘you can’t actually practice penalties, you can only prepare for them.’ Chris put a brilliant presentation together that we used when I went to South Korea for the World Cup. All the other development teams have used it; the seniors used it when they won their penalty shoot-out.

“We have prepared for penalties over the last two weeks and it was all about just having a really clear plan of what you wanted to do and sticking to it. The other side of it is our goalkeepers have probably faced a minimum of 100 penalties over the last two weeks, so they develop a plan as well.

“Tomáš (Holý) and Mick Kelly have improved over the last two weeks and the reward comes today.”

Markham was Game Insights Lead at the FA from 2017 to 2021, under the overall charge of Head of Performance Analysis and Insight Rhys Long. Markham is now Technical Performance Director at Bolton and in 2021 he told TGG about the work he had done on penalties at the FA.

He said: “It was all-encompassing. It was an 18-month piece of work, in which we reviewed all the literature and collected bespoke data on thousands of penalties, including everything you could imagine - run-up angle, length, steps, strategies of keepers, distraction techniques.”

Edwards also paid tribute to Markham's work after his side’s win at Wembley yesterday.

”I know myself and (assistant) Richie (Kyle) both worked at the FA," he said. "There’s a lot of work the FA put into the penalty side. Speaking to a lot of people who have been a part of the play-offs and penalties and getting their footage and leaning on their experiences, we did that.

"And in the end, it was a perfect shoot-out for us.”

Markham's work is a great example of analysis impacting coaching practice. Current FA Game Insights Analyst Daniel Simpson will be talking on this subject at TGG Live on October 10th.

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