The future of football is here – and it’s in Burnley.
The beautiful game of many people’s youths – of jumpers for goalposts, halftime oranges, tactics scrawled on a blackboard and the magic sponge – is now a cash-saturated, global, scientific, mega-industry.
And a new Burnley company has now pitched in to make its contribution to the future of the game in the form of virtual reality headsets.
Sensible Soccer Ltd, not to be confused with the cult computer game of the 1990s, is making a play for the big guns of the football world in rolling out its cutting edge technology which could be the blackboard of the future for top coaches.
Indeed, former Manchester United assistant manager and Nelson-born former Claret Mike Phelan, has added his vast experience to the Sensible Soccer brand, based at the Burnley Business First centre.
Mike, who last managed Hull City Football Club in the Premier League, spoke to the Burnley Express at a trial of the VR headset, when Clarets stars Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady put it to the test.
Mike said: “I think football is moving in to a new era, not just on the pitch but increasingly off it too.
“Football coaches and different sports science departments at the top clubs are all looking to make a difference. That is where the VR headset comes in and what piqued my interest in it.
“I can remember the days of the old blackboard used by managers for tactics. It then progressed to videos and DVDs, and now perhaps VR is the next stage.”
Such is the technology behind the Mi Hiepa kit, that the headset can take the player back to a real match they have played, which allows the coach to highlight scenarios where a mistake was made or, if they’re feeling generous, where that player has made a key pass or interception.
Mike added: “I obviously have an interest in elite coaching so for me this is the next step. Football is as much a mental game as physical.
“This technology allows coaches and players to understand the stresses and strains of decision making in a given game.”
Mike has teamed up at Sensible Soccer with sport performance consultant and coach David Horrocks, as well as business partners Damian Greenwood and Morgan Rothwell of Burnley-based marketing and branding experts D and M Creative.
The quartet have now attracted the interest of some of Europe’s top clubs, including a leading Italian Serie A team, keen to try out the VR technology.
Indeed, Sensible Soccer already has distribution agreements in place with a provider of VR for professional football players and clubs.
Future plans include a “Serious Soccer” area on its website that will allow members to access unique industry specific educational material developed by Mike and Dave, to enhance development at both grassroots levels and upwards.
Cliviger man David is the world’s only published scientific author to have researched to PhD level the practices and protocols of Manchester United.
He said: “Today, GPS picks up all the movements on a football pitch, every single action. The VR headset can drop players back into that live position or situation.
“Studying videos of matches was too two dimensional. Now, the player and coach can get a much more realistic picture. It can be a real cognitive decision-making tool for elite coaches and players.”