Advent Calendar of Football Trivia Analyses

One of the most consistent fonts of posts on this blog is The Guardian’s football trivia page The Knowledge. A particular reason for this is that the small contained questions lend themselves to small blogposts that I can turn around in an hour or two, as opposed to being endlessly redrafted until I lose interest. However, I still sometimes don’t quite get round to finishing some of these posts, or have trouble justifying a blog post on a very small and ‘trivial’ answer to a question.

R-inforcement Learning Part One- Tic Tac Toe

I’m extremely biased, but to me, one of the real success* stories in neuroscience over the last (just over) two decades has been in studying reward signals. Since the seminal 1997 paper, a lot of work has gone into figuring out how the brain assigns value to outcomes. *ugh, maybe. This isn’t a blog post about that My PhD project looks at novel ways of eliciting valuation behaviour to study these signals, but as a key part of the modelling involved in this work, it’s important to get a handle on reinforcement learning.

Predicting the Unpredictable- Analysing Rowing in Cambridge pt. 1

In my free time away from PhD and data science work, I (used to) enjoy rowing. Aside from obvious benefits like socialising, providing a (very intense) workout, seeing the outdoors at least a few times a week… there are really two things that I love(d) about rowing: It’s the sport that is closest to a simple engineering problem. Going fast basically boils down to how in time and how hard you can get 1-8 guys to move an oar through the water.

Scraping Dynamic Websites with PhantomJS

For a recent blogpost, I required data on the ELO ratings of national football teams over time. Such a list exists online at and so in theory this was just a simple task for rvest to read the html pages on that site and then fish out the data I wanted. However, while this works for the static websites which make up the vast majority of sites containing tables of data, it struggles with websites that use JavaScript to dynamically generate pages.

The Guardian Knowledge June 2019

Most Wednesday’s I enjoy reading The Knowledge blog on the Guardian’s website and reading the football trivia therein. When time (and questions) allow, I like to answer some of the questions posed, example of which are here, here, and here. League of Nations The first question comes from Which player had the nationality with the lowest FIFA World Ranking at the time of him winning the Premier League? — The Tin Boonie (@TheTinBoonie) June 18, 2019 a similar question is also answered in this weeks column:

Riddler 1st February 2019

Riddler Classic In my spare time I enjoy solving 538’s The Riddler column. This week I had a spare few hours waiting for the Superbowl to start and decided to code up a solution to the latest problem to keep me busy. The question revolves around a card game in which whatever choice a player makes, they are likely to lose to a con artist. Formally this is phrased as:

Which English County Has Won the Most Points

Every so often a question on The Guardian’s The Knowledge football trivia section piques my interest and is amenable to analysis using R. Previously, I looked at club name suffixes and young World Cup winners last August. This week (give or take), a question posed on twitter caught my attention: @TheKnowledge_GU was just chatting to some colleagues in the kitchen at work about why Essex doesn’t have many big football clubs and it got me thinking.

The Knowledge 4th August 2018

The Guardian publish a weekly set of questions and answers on a variety of football minutiae at The Knowledge. Forutnately, some of these are extremely tractable using R, so I thought I’d have a go at working through the archives to see if I can shed light on any of the questions. library(rvest) library(dplyr) library(magrittr) library(data.table) library(zoo) library(ggplot2) library(rvest) library(stringr) #jalapic/engsoccerdata library(engsoccerdata) We Ain’t Going To The Town.. ‘This season, Tranmere Rovers return to contest League Two alongside eight teams with the suffix Town, including six successive fixtures against these clubs over the New Year.

Could an Independent Yorkshire Win the World Cup - Rest of the World/UK

Recently, a Yorkshire national football team appeared in a league of national teams for stateless people. This got me wondering how the historic counties of the UK would do at the world cup. Could any of them compete with full international teams? I published the complete code for that article on this blog this week. However, one question which I kept being asked was how a ‘All of the UK’ team would do (i.

Could an Independent Yorkshire Win the World Cup - Simulate World Cups

Recently, a Yorkshire national football team appeared in a league of national teams for stateless people. This got me wondering how the historic counties of the UK would do at the world cup. Could any of them compete with full international teams? This is the complete script for an short article I wrote for CityMetric on the topic. It’s split over 5 separate parts and is pretty hefty but contains pretty much everything you need to clone the article.