ROVERS defender Shelton Martis is back to full fitness thanks to the efforts of fitness coach Mal Purchase.
Martis had picked up an injury during pre-season so had to be brought along separately to the rest of the squad in order to make the swiftest possible return to availability.
Purchase admits that it hasn’t been easy preparing Martis for the rigours of a full League One season.
“Shelton’s legs weren’t strong enough, so we’ve been working on conditioning them,” revealed Purchase to The Star. “He’s back in training now and he’s ready for selection. At our last game at Yeovil, Dean had everyone to pick from and that’s what we want to try and achieve.
“After training we work on injury prevention because we want all the players and coaches to be out training every day and for there to be nobody in the treatment room.”
Manager Dean Saunders has just 17 senior professionals to choose from so it is down to Purchase and the physios to try and keep players healthy so that Saunders has options when picking his matchday squads.
As Purchase explains, the players themselves have to take some of the responsibility. “It’s about getting the players conditioned, eating and conducting themselves properly. You don’t have to be going off to army camps and things like that. From day one we’ve had balls in training because football is a fitness sport. It just depends on the number on the teams, whether it be 11, seven or four a side, the duration of the game and diameters of the pitch.”
Last weekend’s unexpected Saturday off, due to international call-ups, could indeed prove to be a blessing as it has afforded some of the Rovers squad to get fully up to speed.
Purchase said: “When James Harper came in he’d been training with Stevenage and wasn’t up to the speed that our players were and that’s because other clubs do it different to us. The same went for Billy Paynter and Jamie McCombe but they’re all not far away now.”
The old adage of you can’t get match fitness without playing actual games isn’t something that Purchase, who joined the club alongside Assistant Brian Carey from Wrexham, necessarily believes in.
“We can get players just as fit off the pitch as the players that are on it,” he said.
Leeds United have pleaded guilty to a charge of misconduct in their game with Rovers back in February. A Leeds’ winner made it 3-2 in stoppage time, before fighting broke out in the tunnel.
Both sides will have a hearing set at a later date.