How Louie adds technical wizardry to the Gulls team

Gary Johnson, Manager of Torquay United talks with Louie Birkenshaw, Video Analyst of Torquay United

Torquay United manager Gary Johnson with Louie Birkenshaw at Plainmoor - Credit: Dave Crawford/PPAUK

He doesn't kick a ball and most supporters never see him, but Louie Birkenshaw is rated as one of Torquay United's most important members of staff.

At only 24, Birkenshaw is the Gulls' head of performance analysis, and manager Gary Johnson has come to rely on his technical wizardry and judgment.

"From day one, Louie has been the perfect person for us in the perfect role," says Johnson.

"He knows the game, especially our game. He's above his years in the way he thinks, and we always like to hear his opinion."

A former pupil of Torquay Academy, Birkenshaw hails from a keen Gulls-supporting family and, after earning a degree in sports coaching and physical education at Marjons University in Plymouth, he first joined his hometown club to help then academy head Shaun Taylor in 2018.

When Johnson took over later that year, he quickly promoted Birkenshaw, giving him the job of making the fly-on-the-wall documentary of United's 2018-2019 NL South Championship season, as well as carrying out his analysis duties.

They include filming training and matches, producing tailored clips covering team and individual players, monitoring daily 'GPS' fitness data and, recently, 'piloting' the drone which United are now using for training sessions and practice matches.

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"I was planning to be a teacher but football analysis is what I want to stay in now," he says.

"Even if I'd done a degree in analysis, I could never have learned what the gaffer and Downesy (assistant manager Aaron Downes) have taught me.

"I've loved every minute - apart from the play-off final last season, of course! - and even then we tried to play our part.

"A free-kick we had planned worked perfectly for the first goal which the referee disallowed, wrongly we all think.

"We also predicted which way Hartlepool's first two penalty takers would go in the shoot-out, and Lucas (Covolan) saved them both.

"If you can find just that ten per cent extra, it can make all the difference.

"I'd love to get as high as I can in football, but the gaffer's people skills are second to none, and if he stays for another five years, I'd love to stay with him."