Spearman promoted to Director of Research by Liverpool
Written by Training Ground Guru — February 12, 2023
WILL SPEARMAN has been promoted to replace Ian Graham as Director of Research at Liverpool at the end of this season.
The American joined Liverpool in March 2018 as their Lead Data Scientist, having previously been Senior Data Scientist with Hudl. He was part of a new wave of staff in football: having done a PhD in particle physics and the mass and width of the Higgs Boson at Harvard University.
Liverpool are widely regarded as having the strongest data science department in football. On the latest edition of the TGG Podcast, Professor David Sumpter says, “Liverpool are definitely leading the game in analytics, there is no doubt about that.”
The spearhead for that has been Graham, who joined the club in July 2012, having previously worked at Tottenham. The Welshman handed in his resignation in June and will work a notice period until May.
During his time at Liverpool, Graham was involved in the selection of Jurgen Klopp as the successor to Brendan Rodgers as the club’s new boss in October 2015.
This was despite the fact that Klopp's Borussia Dortmund had struggled the previous season, finishing seventh in the Bundesliga.
“The German media said, ’It’s all over for Dortmund, Klopp’s lost it, there’s no way back for them,’” Graham recalled. “Our analysis showed something quite different, which was that they were still clearly the second-best team in Germany. But the performances did not match the results.
“So I analysed 10 seasons of Bundesliga performances, and Dortmund were the second-unluckiest team in that 10-year history. It was just some terrible luck that cost Jürgen that one season.”
Data also helped to identify undervalued players like full-back Andy Robertson, who joined in July 2017 from Hull for an initial fee of £8m.
“One of my favourite players is Andy Robertson, our left-back, one of the best left-backs in Europe,” Graham said in an October 2019 interview.
“So Andy Robertson’s problem was his background as much as anything. So he only started playing English Premier League football maybe at the age of 22. And he played for Hull City, which was not a very good football team.
“They got relegated from the Premier League. And he was the best young full-back in Britain at the time. He was a really strange case of a really attacking full-back playing in a really poor defensive team.”
Liverpool’s data science team currently comprises Graham, as Head of Research; Spearman as Lead Data Scientist; statistical researchers Tim Waskett and Dafydd Steele; and data engineers Mark Howlett and Mark Stevenson.