Luton chief explains how data played a major role in signing Canadian Premier League striker Pepple

Hatters manager discusses latest addition

By Mike Simmonds
Friday, 5th August 2022, 1:37 pm
Luton manager Nathan Jones
Luton manager Nathan Jones

Luton boss Nathan Jones has been speaking at length about how big a part the data compiled on Aribim Pepple played in Town bringing the forward to Kenilworth Road this week.

The 19-year-old had enjoyed a stellar beginning to the season with Canadian Premier League outfit Cavalry FC, scoring in five successive games, making it six in seven matches before the Hatters made their move.

With Luton’s scouting department understandably not having the numbers available to head out to Canada and watch the division on a regular basis, it was very much down to the data assembled that first alerted Town to Pepple before they agreed to take what became a well-informed punt on the Kettering-born attacker.

Going into detail about how such a deal took place, Jones, who appointed Phil Chapple as head of scouting operations and Jay Socik as head of recruitment analysis back in February 2021, in a bid to boost Town’s recruitment section, said: “It’s an identifying process.

“To get manpower, the old-fashioned way, to get people on the ground to spot (players), you’d only cover a certain part of the country or the world.

“We have tracked a lot. We’re big on data now as well so anyone that is flagged up is then watched.

"We can’t watch everyone because we haven’t got the manpower so what we do is identify a lot by data, get them watched and have more information on them and then we back that up.

“To open up greater avenues, you have to be able to identify certain things, and data does that.

"We don’t sign anyone from data.

"They flag that up, it’s one of the first points of call.

"Or, if we see something with our eye and think, ‘we really like him,’ then we ask for the data to back that up.

“Now, what you see with the naked eye and data could be totally different.

"I tend to sign a lot of people that I know, that I’ve seen or have got a real good experience of.

“Those I haven’t, then it’s good to get, one, the data to flag stuff up, two, opinions from others, when they watch them.

"Then, by the time it gets to me, we’ve got real good people - Phil Chapple, Mick Harford, Jay Socik - who have put in the hours to say, ‘these are worth having a look at’.

“Then it gets to me and my staff and we make a decision.

"Nothing gets done off data, it’s just an identifying thing and then opinions back that up.

"It’s a decent process.”

The fact that Town have ventured into the Canadian Premier League also shows how far they are casting their net in the bid to improve the squad at Kenilworth Road too, as they look to have another crack at the play-offs this term.

Jones continued: “We’re not looking in every country, but we flag a lot up data-wise, so they have to be respectable.

"We’re not really looking at the moon or anything like that, we’re in and around places.

"He’s got a British passport so that helps in terms of family upbringing, with getting visas, so we don’t just look anywhere.

"We flag a lot of data up, once we get good data then we investigate and we’ve got better resources now to have a little look at that and flag one or two up.

"The gamble is not huge for us, but it’s a real good investment, we can’t waste that.

"We’ve done it before, we did it with Aaron Jarvis for example, in terms of taking one from non-league and taking them really early and thinking we’ll get real development out of that.

"Aaron Jarvis is having a career, he didn’t quite have a career at Luton, but was definitely worth it as we’ve helped someone on his way.

"He came from Basingstoke, now playing for Torquay, but has had time in the league at Scunthorpe and played games for us, so we’ve been doing it for a while, it’s just probably a little bit more prominent now.”

With Luton starting to take players at a younger age in a bid to develop them, plus having a squad full of striking options like Elijah Adebayo, Carlton Morris, Harry Cornick, Cauley Woodrow and Cameron Jerome, then it has seen some possible targets decide against making the move, fearful of the weight of competition they will face for a first team berth.

Jones added: “He’s (Pepple) at the right age, the right athleticism and character so we’re looking to bring him in to develop and then get him into our first-team.

"He’s got a lot of work to do yet because we’ve got real competition and every striker we go for now, a lot of them don’t want to come to us because they don’t feel like they’re going to play.

"We have to keep that conveyor belt going, we have to safeguard the future of the football club and we will do that by good recruitment."