A boot-mounted tracking sensor providing analysis of a footballer’s performance was used for the first time in a scouting tournament in Gunnersbury this week.

Young players from the ProDirect Soccer academy wore the tracker in the tournament at Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub on Thursday, which was attended by scouts from the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and West Ham United.

The tracker, developed by Playermaker, has been used by several clubs in the English Football League in training sessions and friendly matches.

But the tournament represented the first time that the tracker’s data will be used by premier league scouts and representatives from top universities to enhance their observations of promising academy players. 

ProDirect Soccer’s head of performance Chris Powell said the value of the technical data provided by the tracker was the main reason behind the academy’s decision to introduce the technology.

He said: “If a scout likes a player, they can look at the data and see metrics like how many touches the player takes with each foot, when they release the ball, and a wealth of other information that isn’t provided by GPS wearables.

“The technical game is vastly improving in football, so being able to add data that covers both the physical and technical side of the game to your own notes from what you see on the pitch is massively beneficial for football clubs,” said Powell.

GPS wearables have been utilised for years by top-flight clubs to better understand players’ positioning, speed and distance covered, but can only provide insights based around a player’s geographical location. 

The location of Playermaker’s sensor, which is strapped to the side of a player’s boot using a small rubber harness, means it can gather metrics such as kicking velocity, flight time, number of touches and physical load.

This information is vital for coaches and strength and conditioning staff looking to maximise their players’ physical performance and prevent injury according to former professional footballer and Playermaker’s consumer insights director Lee Molyneaux.

He said: “Players aren’t always moving when they’re working hard. In training drills for example, a player can be working really hard volleying and striking the ball, but they aren’t moving very much geographically.

“Some clubs are really conscious of a player’s gait or physical load. They use the tracker to pick up things like leg imbalances or whether a player is over-pronating to focus on injury prevention and determine when players need to be rested.”

The tracker was seemingly well received by players, who praised the tracker for its ease of use and unobtrusive nature in comparison to chest-mounted GPS trackers which some players said were restrictive and uncomfortable. 

ProDirect Soccer academy player Kye Tearle also echoed the sentiments of his head of performance as regards the value of the data.

He said: “The information you get from the tracker is like gold-dust.

“You can play a full 90 minutes and compare your stats against players from top teams and other academy players, or you can play five games, get your averages and see how they look next to the players playing at clubs where you want to be.

“You don’t feel them on your feet. I personally don’t like vests, and I don’t feel like the boot-mounted tracker affects your playing, so for me they’re really useful.”

While the use of the boot-mounted tracker is not as widespread as its GPS counterparts amongst top-tier clubs, Molyneaux was confident that Playermaker’s tracker would see a major uptake as the benefit of such extensive data access becomes clear.

“For sure there’s that ‘newness’ and a bit of a stigma to get over," he said.

“When GPS started coming in back when I was playing there was a standardisation period, and a lot of players said that it was uncomfortable.

“We’ve got the likes of Fulham, Rangers and Norwich using it already, and once you see photos of top players wearing it and we go through that standardisation period it’ll just become the norm, which is what happened with GPS.”