Pre season. Words that send shudders down players spine.
I’ve done a fair few over the years, and it’s safe to say they’ve changed a little bit from My first to my last, and I’m sure even more so now with the ease of getting heart monitors. They were about towards the end of my career, a few players used them at times, but the chest strap wasn’t the most comfortable! Now they’re built in with gps in the tops, so much easier to monitor players.
Although every player acknowledges the importance of pre season, and have excitement to be back at the club with his teammates, there are parts you dread.
As a youngster, my first few were done at Oxford Utd. A yts player, but for the first few days the whole club joined together. With the will to impress your gaffer, young lads tend to fly off. You soon learn pre season is a marathon. Not a sprint. Today with sports scientists this is monitored much more closely! But injuries are common, some bodies are just not used to the intensity. My first few you were considered not to have put the effort in unless you’d been physically sick. Those first few, getting on the bus to Oxford. The leaving late on the bus home, you would just crash out, and hope you woke by your stop!!
The pain I still remember, waking early morning and struggling to walk. Every muscle, every fibre screaming at you. Your mind would wonder how you would get through the relentless effort of the punishing day ahead. Long runs were common, mixed with sprints and body exercises. A ball coming out in the first week was unheard off. All you needed was your trainers, ( a phrase that was common over the seasons, “trainers only today lads”) you knew what was coming!! Hill work was another common place, at Oxford we dreaded the shout “shot over” this afternoon.
At Cambridge Roy Mcfarland loved the golf course at Royston. Unfortunately we were not there to golf! It became our base for the first three days with Roy on our return. Always started on a Thursday, there on the Friday, and Saturday was the morning long hills.
As you got more experienced over the years, you really geared up for the games, using it all to get your body to be as close as possible ready for the start of the season. It sounds a strange saying, he’s got to get match fit, with all the running done, and fitness work, but all those who have played will swear to the game fitness.
It is completely different. Hence why most managers first few pre season games never played a player for 90 mins. Players at the end of the season so looked forward to a break, getting away with the family, and this was generally 8 weeks. Some players would do nothing during close season, for me I did nothing for 4 weeks, then started light work building up to longer times, just to get a small base fitness. My last few pre seasons changed. Players would get 3 weeks off. Then report back to the club 2 sometimes 3 times a week for workouts. Also the player was given a training schedule. It would be quite obvious if this wasn’t done! Footballers can get there mind set to the ease of one session a day, pre season was always double sessions, sometimes triple. So returning home 6pm was a long day. (Yes I know welcome to the real world) but when during most of the season training would be from 10 am till 1 pm. Pre season was long!
Most seasons there was always the usual army camp thrown in. A few days away to be blasted by the PT (personal trainer) who always enjoyed trying to break the players. But it was also where team bonding was used. Players were split into teams, building leaders and introducing the team ethic. However now, a older man, what I would give to be able to go through pre season again. That would be the main thing I would drum into players. Being paid to be fit, and being fit is a great feeling although at the time you never feel 100%, there is always a niggle somewhere on the body. In short pre season is the start to the exciting season ahead, the mysteries yet to be unfolded, oh what I’d give to do another, the banter, the laughs, the moaning, ah I miss that all the most.