Tuesday, September 05, 2006

To do with Oldham Athletic

Having slacked (well, done a Christian camp in North Wales, and then moved house) for a few weeks, I'm now back at work. Two areas are currently on my radar, and one I finished off to a very basic level of completion yesterday. It's now up on my website, and it's an econometric model of attendances at Oldham Athletic football matches. The second is an investigation of betting exchanges using high frequency data and econometric techniques used for financial data. The second is interesting because high volumes of money are placed on the outcomes of big sporting events on betting exchanges, and just as the stock market provides an approximation of the true value of a company, so a betting exchange provides an approximation to the true probability of an event occuring.

However, the latter is very tentative. The former, because I could just use OLS (coupled with PcGets), is very simple, and feels to me a lot like a school project. However, I liked it, and all comments are welcome. The pdf can be found here. The model will be used to predict future attendances at Oldham games, and it will be interesting to see how close the model gets, and whether improvements can be found. There is a huge amount of forecasting techniques available, but the best methods are surely those robust to the fact the world is constantly changing around us. It's too early to tell, but this current football season, attendances seem lower than they were last season at Oldham games. One way to potentially enable better forecasting is to employ a method of testing the model for the presence of a structural break in the last few observations. This is work yet to be done.

Attendances could well be lower because the end of the previous season at Oldham Athletic was very disappointing. A strong run of form had seen the team in contention for the end of season play-off competition to determine who gains the final promotion spot (the top two teams gain promotion automatically). However, the last seven games saw five defeats and two draws, to leave Oldham in a very deflating midtable position. Further to this, the supporters didn't particularly like the manager in charge, despite his previous good track record, and the fact he'd substantially improved the finishing position on the previous season. For a current update, this former manager, Ronnie Moore, has moved to Tranmere Rovers. Already, Tranmere have beaten Oldham this season, and Tranmere sit in 2nd place. Oldham, with four defeats in their opening six matches, occupy 22nd position. Too early to tell, but despite continual positive statements from manager and players, the team is not getting the results, and as such, a position even nearly as good as that attained last season is hard to imagine.

This is a variable that is hard to capture, particularly when actually it appears to make little difference to the attendance, if early games this season are a guide. Oldham Athletic fans appear to be footballing purists, and would like someone to get the team to play "good" football. Good football means passing the ball well, and creating goalscoring opportunities through patient (and pleasing on the eye) build-up play. It appears Ronnie Moore didn't encourage this enough in his time at Boundary Park. My view is the guy took the very unglamorous Rotherham United up two divisions, and made them competitive in the second tier of English football, when a club of their stature belongs in the fourth tier. He didn't do this by getting his team to play particularly pleasing on the eye football, but he gave Rotherham United fans three or so seasons of rubbing shoulders with some of the largest teams in this land. The kind of people who can do this do not grow on trees, yet because the brand of football wasn't pretty enough, he's been sacked, so he can instead get Tranmere Rovers promoted this season, as opposed to Oldham Athletic.

While in the meantime, Oldham begin to play nicer football, and lose games. An example of the mentality of Oldham fans can be found in a report on the new manager's comments after the most recent defeat, where a goal with virtually the last kick of the game condemned Oldham to a 3-2 defeat. John Sheridan, the manager, accepts blame for a poor first half performance, where he experimented with a 4-5-1 formation to try to nullify Bournemouth, the opposition. However, Oldham finished the first half 2-0 down. Apparently, Sheridan's honesty is "promising for the future", and "With a manager who is not afraid to hold up his hands when he makes a mistake, Athletic deserve that their luck should turn." I wonder since when has honesty in post-match interviews made the blindest bit of difference to where a team finishes in the league.

Stuart Pearce of Manchester City is very honest. Jose Mourinho of Chelsea would not be described as being honest, as Chelsea are without doubt, in his opinion, the best team in every match they take part in. However, Chelsea win things, Manchester City don't. I can see the argument that if the players have a manager they see to be genuine, decent and honest, they might be more motivated to play for him. But honesty doesn't substitute for managerial ability. Have Oldham sacked a good manager who perhaps doesn't accept the blame himself enough of the time, for a poor manager who is just a nice chap, who the fans and players like?


Post a Comment

<< Home