Jack Radusin: How Cardiff City use live video on the bench

SCAN across most benches on matchday and you'll see a coach holding an iPad. But what exactly are they looking at?

That's the question we asked Cardiff City Head of Analysis Jack Radusin ahead of the Bluebirds' final match of the season against Rotherham United, which ended 1-1.

First of all though, a bit of background. Tablets and laptops have been permitted on the bench since the start of the 2018/19 season, for “coaching, tactics and player welfare.”

This was a big step forward, although Radusin, who has been with the Bluebirds since October 2013, admits the announcement caught clubs by surprise.

“Every team had a different approach at first and there was no consistent way of getting a live feed onto the bench to watch and review clips," he says.

About halfway through the campaign though, Cardiff started using Hudl Replay, a new tool for reviewing live footage, and suddenly video on the bench became slicker and more effective.

For Cardiff, it's first-team coach James Rowberry who uses Hudl Replay on the bench during matches. It provides him with a wide-angle feed of the action, which is being filmed from high up in the gantry by analyst Josh Morris.

“The wide angle footage is captured into a Macbook and from there it’s shot across the ground wirelessly to James’s iPad,” explains Radusin, who is positioned alongside Morris in the gantry for away matches and in a ‘feed room’ in the tunnel for home games.

There’s a 10 to 15-second delay on the feed and “by the time an incident happens, James is able to glance down at his iPad and the move in question will be starting."

Radusin adds: “There’s a really quick rewind and fast forward button on Hudl Replay that allows you to skip through the footage and having the delay actually turns into an advantage, because it’s very simple and effective for viewing incidents.”

As well as filming the match, Radusin and Morris will be ‘coding’ it, which means “creating video clips in different categories” using Hudl’s industry-leading software Sportscode.

“During a match there will be about 100 events we code,” explains Radusin. “Different buttons on the keyboard relate to different categories of incident, meaning you can then find what you want within seconds, whether it's a corner, cross, free kick or final third pass.

“It’s so simple, but you also need an analyst’s eye to recognise tactical themes and identify what’s relevant in a match.”

Live video on Hudl Replay

Live video on Hudl Replay

Using Hudl Replay on the bench, Rowberry will also have access to the codes which Radusin and Morris are creating.

“Every one of my codes - every corner, goal kick, free kick - will appear on the side of James’s screen via a simplified Sportscode panel,” explains Radusin. “He’s very comfortable with Sportscode and this is very useful for him.

“For example, we might have said we’re going to press the opposition from their goal kicks, yet from three or four they’ve managed to play through us. The question then will be, ‘How are they getting out?’

“In that situation, James can click ‘goalkeeper restarts’ on Hudl Replay and look at them all in order. If necessary, we can also discuss them via our radio link.”

If Radusin needs Rowberry to view a clip as a matter of urgency, he codes it ‘analyst’.

“I’d typically only use this three or four times a game, if I feel something really needs to be seen.”

As ever, communication and common sense are key. Rowberry doesn’t want to be glued to his screen at the expense of seeing the live game from his vantage point.

“Coaches still want to retain the raw element of watching the game live and communicating with players quickly," reveals Radusin. “Being able to watch the game live, at close quarters, is invaluable, but being able to review an important passage of play via the iPad can also be important.

“It can give you a wide angle from which to diagnose a potential problem. The iPad is an accessory to what you’re actually seeing - the key is knowing when and how to use it.”

When there’s a clear chance or a goal, then manager Mick McCarthy and his assistant, Terry Connor, are likely to come over to take a look at the iPad as well.

“The Gaffer is a presence on the touchline throughout the match, conveying his messages, but being able to take a glance at the iPad at the right times can save him having to wait a long time to half time to watch and review an important incident.”

Radusin sees himself as a support and reinforcement for the coaches rather than a tactical replacement.

“The relationship between the analyst and coach is key,” he says. "The most important part of my job is feeding back, not overriding what the coach has seen. Sometimes you don’t want to intrude during a match; it’s about adding value."

Half time is key for the team as a whole and for the analysts in particular, allowing them to review what’s happened in the first half and hopefully address it.

Radusin might have prepared a playlist on a particular theme to be shown to the players on a big TV, laptop or iPad, or he might choose to alert Rowberry or Connor to an issue one-on-one.

“Several managers I’ve worked with want to use half time to quickly and efficiently communicate their thoughts to the players. There's always an emotional aspect to this, and video isn't always needed.

“You need to have the ability to recognise what’s needed at what time. For the game against Reading (on April 16th, which finished 1-1), the first thing I did at half time was to speak to TC (Terry Connor) before the Gaffer started his team talk to show him how the opposition were setting up on set pieces and what the solutions could be.

"You need to have rigorous systems in place so you can deploy the right solution at the right time.”

Another potential use of Hudl Replay is by medical staff, to review potential concessions. And technology has enabled analysis to become more collaborative and accessible than ever.

Radusin explains that there has been a huge culture shift in analysis during his time with Cardiff. At first, it was a case of an analyst “standing at the front of a room and showing clips to players and coaches ”; now it’s “more two-way, with the players being able to watch and review video on their phones or iPads, as and when they need to.”

He adds: “Initially, we had two computers in a room and players would come in to look at clips. Now we send the videos direct to them, whether it’s of the opposition or from our own training or matches, and they are much more involved."

Covid has accelerated this process of analysis becoming more virtual and interactive.

“All our training and match footage gets uploaded to the Hudl Online platform, so the players can view it at the training ground or at home,” says Radusin. "For the Under-18s and 23s, in particular, this has been a lifesaver, because Covid protocols have required them to be off-site a lot.

“The 18s and 23s have their meetings on Hudl Online, and clips, playlists, drawings are all housed there. That’s worked really well and could be here to stay.”

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