There’s little hiding for the players in modern day football, with GPS and heart-rate monitors and the Lilywhites’ fitness coach Tom Little talked pre-season training with PNE.Com.
The fitness department play a big part in the early stages of the campaign, with many of the sessions being undertaken whilst at the team’s Fota Island training base in Ireland preparation for what’s to come, but as Tom explained to the official website, this has to be crammed into a very short space of time.
“When you analyse pre-season there is only really two weeks before you are in the thick of really important games, in terms of the preparation and starting to decide on your strongest team, so there is a massive technical and tactical element that comes in quite early,” he said. “The first three days we have is more about me preparing them physically, but the balls do come out early, because part of that preparation is about getting those specific muscles prepared for the football content.
“There is a lot of detailed progression that comes from my side of it early on, but by the time we reach the second and third week, we are really trying to replicate the demands that the manager will put on them when the season itself comes around.
“We are trying to mirror the kind of weekly build up that the manager would put on the players, so their bodies are accustomed to that and at the same time really working them hard. We haven’t got a game this week, but we are going into the Stockport game where we will look to rotate the team slightly, which means we can push them to quite high levels of fatigue this week to get them to where they need to be when the games come thick and fast – as from next week we have two games a week until we get started and a lot of that will be led by the new manager, who, being new, will want to implement his ideals and what we are trying to is get a good synergy, so we are getting good fitness results at the same time as the technical and tactical elements.”
This of course means that the players nowadays cannot have six to eight weeks of nothing during the summer, as they will soon be found out when they return: “There are some experienced pros and I can accept they are used to doing certain things and their bodies are used to that and they have had success, but we do provide everyone a programme,” continued Tom.
“It has a good degree of individualisation in there for their specific needs and we give them goals in there, but in the main we trust in the players to take care of things themselves.
“They go away, they have holidays and some of them, like Jordan Hugill, were coming in a lot and training with the fitness and physio staff, but in the main we test them early to check what they have been doing and the vast majority have been working hard and the ones that haven’t have been told about it and probably won’t do the same next year!”
But with the technology available, a player will not get away with it if he is not up to speed!
“There has been some change over the last few years, but the main thing now is that we have the objective feedback to go with our subjective feelings.
“If you are experienced, like the manager is, and you have been a professional footballer, you kind of know what works and how you are going to feel, but now we know in black and white what the players are doing with the tools that we have at our disposal – the GPS that all the players have and the heart rate monitors mean we have the figures in black and white, so we can look if there are any variations in between the squad or if an individual is working too hard or too easy.
“The main changes that have come about tend to be off the field. Pre-season used to be a peak time for injuries, but now that has been really reduced, which has come from a greater focus on injury prevention programmes – a lot of work is done in terms of strengthening and pre-hab and lots of individual programmes.
“Big brother is watching you for the players I’m afraid!
“You have to accept on tactical sessions that certain positions will work harder than others, but in technical sessions you want everyone to be doing the same level of work. When we know there is a fitness element then we can see what the players have done and if they don’t reach the levels we want, then they may have to go on the bike or the AltrG to get that load into them another way,” he added.