The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football Is Wrong by Chris Anderson and David Sally has been the best selling sports book this summer. It was therefore a real pleasure to hop on to the Deutsche Bahn to London today and have lunch outside in the sunshine with Chris Anderson and to talk with him about the book and about Charlton. An American living in central London for two years, Anderson has been to The Valley a number of times with his two boys, most recently for the Millwall game. He thinks that there is a nice atmosphere at Charlton, but was surprised by the low attendance at the derby.
I have to say I was impressed by what Anderson told me about the book. Sales are well into five figures already, before the impending launch of the American edition. The most copies any book I have written has sold are in the 5,000 - 6,000 range. Moreover, the book is being translated into many languages: Portuguese for the Brazilian market, Italian, Finnish (a very difficult language) and Japanese (the most difficult language I have encountered apart from Welsh). I have only been translated into Chinese and Korean.
The book deliberately uses intermediate level statistics, two variable linear regressions. Econometrics has become a lot more sophisticated since then, but the regressions generate scattergrams which can be used to identify 'outlier' clubs that have done particularly well or badly in some respect. However, much of the book is structured around a series of well-told football stories. It is thus very readable.
The success of the book, and its suggestions about how one might coach more effectively, have given Chris an entrée to the closed, village world of English football. Only last week he was up at Leeds United's training ground watching the first team train.
The talk turned to Charlton. Chris had been to the Millwall game. He agreed with many of the observations made by Addicks afterwards. The midfield struggled; Piggott should have come off earlier; things improved when Stewart and Harriott came on, and Powell deserved credit for switching to a 4-4-2, but he should have done it earlier.
Those observations are similar to ones made by many Addicks about the Millwall match. But Chris posed a difficult question: how well prepared are Charlton for matches? He asked because he felt that there was a pattern of Charlton playing better in the second half. To him this suggested that they had not researched their opponents sufficiently thoroughly or at least not used that knowledge as well as they could.
In the book, Chris and his co-author describe in some detail a visit they made to Everton's Finch Farm training ground and the preparations made there. We don't have the resources of a Premiership club and I am not sure how these things are done at The Valley. It's certainly a point I hadn't thought about.