A Week With #CharlesReep

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It has been quite a week on the Charles Reep project.

I found a Football Pink report of the fabled Swindon Town v Bristol Rovers game, played on Saturday, 18 March 1950, thanks to a remarkable archive maintained by Swindon-Town-FC. Charles had to wait until the 82nd minute to notate his first goal sequence. A goal that was scored by Harry Kaye, the Swindon Town left half. It was a rare event, it was Harry’s only goal of the season.

My week:

  1. I have created and updated a bibliographic resource on Google Docs.
  2. I have a Neil Lanham resource too on Google Docs.
  3. I have corresponded with Neil.
  4. I have corresponded with Ian Franks and Mike Hughes to learn about the story behind their 2005 paper on normalisation.
  5. I hope to be introduced to Richard Pollard.

One of my activities later in the week was to re-read the 1971 paper Skill and Chance in Ball Games. I had not appreciated the nature of the changes to data analysis in that paper. There are some important changes to the 1968 data set. In the introduction to the 1971 paper, its statistical provenance is attested to by mention of the Greenwood and Yule hypothesis (1920). I have not seen this reference in any other football analysis paper.

The presence of Bernard Benjamin and Richard Pollard as co-authors with Charles gives the statistical aspects of the papers particular importance. Neil Lanham consulted an eminent statistician, Dr D A East a member of staff of the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge in regard to the data in his 1993 paper.

I think it is profoundly important to acknowledge this statistical underpinning of Charles and Neil’s papers.

As I have worked my way through the archive this week, my deciphering of the published papers has led me to think much more carefully about how we disclose data and operational definitions. My approach is to share data openly to enable community access to data and discussion about a shared resource.

I can see that I will need to do much more deciphering of the papers. I need to check with Ian and Mike about their paper too. I am hopeful that we might have access to their World Cup data from 1990 and 1994.

There is one point I will need to clarify with Ian and Mike. In their paper (2005: 510), they note:

The 1990 World Cup involved 24 teams and a total of 52 matches, whereas the 1994 format was expanded to 32 teams and a corresponding total of 64 matches.

I think the move to 32 teams occurred in 1998.

It has been that kind of week with Charles.

By serendipity, I found reference to him in Ron Atkinson’s (2016) autobiography.

It was December 1954; I was fifteen, a ground-staff boy at Wolverhampton Wanderers watching Honved players walk out onto the pitch, a pitch that i and the rest of the Wolves staff had done our best to turn into a bog. The Daily Mail said it resembled the surface of a four day-old cattle show.

Wolves employed an analyst called Wing Commander Charles Reep, who argued that most goals resulted from three passes. It formed the basis of the theories that Graham Taylor was to use so successfully at Watford. Reep dominated Molineux to the extent that, if you played a square pass in your own half of the pitch, there would be trouble. If Stan Cullis saw it, he would go absolutely barmy.

Before the game, Cullis took us all into the Molineux Hotel at the top of the ground to watch a film of the Hungarians beating England 6-3 at Wembley the year before. We analysed the first goal: Hungary score almost straight from the kick-off.

 … and then I found a Pathe News recording of the game.

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