Trips to Google and the RAF: inside the FA’s technical directors’ course

Arsenal and Chelsea are participating in a programme designed to haul football into the future. We get a taste with the students

On Monday morning at Google’s snazzy headquarters in Pancras Square a group of students in a second-floor corner office are discussing the particular foibles of their day jobs. Dougie Freedman and David Moss are debating data and its use in recruitment while Steve Walsh, interjecting, points to how difficult it is to gain a true picture of a prospective signing’s character. Jim Fraser, Chelsea’s head of youth recruitment, is talking restrictions and how a failure to qualify for the Champions League leaves a gaping hole in the coffers. Meanwhile Les Ferdinand, operating in another world a few miles down the road at Queens Park Rangers, cracks a broad smile and offers to “play a little violin” in sympathy – to whoops of laughter.

That is merely a snapshot. The exchanges are passionate, provocative and insightful, with the first intake enlisted on the Football Association’s new level five course for technical directors calling upon their own experiences while their host, Kirk Vallis, global head of creative capability development at Google, and a handful of consultants and tutors take it all in.

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