Full English not the way to have players full of beans

Owls back in Pre -Season Training at Middlewood road...Pictured Daniel Jones with Mark Beevers
Owls back in Pre -Season Training at Middlewood road...Pictured Daniel Jones with Mark Beevers
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THE days when footballers could relax over the summer are long gone.

THE days when footballers could relax over the summer are long gone.

Times have changed and players are warned by clubs to avoid over indulging in unhealthy food or drinking copious amounts of alcohol during the close season.

When Sheffield United report back for training today, the club’s coaching staff will expect the players to be in peak, physical condition. Ditto Sheffield Wednesday. Players have been given individual programmes to stick to over the break, so woe betide anyone who returns to duty overweight.

Gradually, pre-season training has taken on added significance. A solid and efficient programme has the capacity to make all the difference in the long haul for clubs chasing silverware.

Alan Ruddock, who works for the Centre for Sport and Exercise Science at Sheffield Hallam University, told The Star: “Players can’t afford to be unfit and out of shape when they resume pre-season training. They soon get found out if they come back overweight because clubs test for that straight away.

“It (pre-season) has changed drastically now. Instead of going on long runs and eating full English breakfasts and chips for dinner, everything is now optimised and specific to each individual player.

“Pre-season is so important in team sports, especially football. Clubs are lucky if they get six weeks to prepare the players so they haven’t got a lot of time to get ready.”

Ruddock says clubs would have started planning for pre-season at the end of last term.

“The coaches, physiologists, the strength and conditioning coaches, psychologists will be looking at results from last year and identifying where they will want to be come the end of this year,” he said.

“They will be going through a lot of data at the moment and looking to apply that to their training programmes this time around.”

Ruddock, who is currently doing a PhD in physiology, has worked closely with a number of clubs on their fitness regimes in recent years, including Sheffield Eagles and the Great Britain Volleyball team.

He also offered advice to referee Howard Webb in 2010 before the Rotherham official went on to officiate in the World Cup Final.

The purpose of Ruddock’s role is to assess an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses and identify what areas they can improve in the future. He specialises in designing tests to work out how quick and strong sportsmen are and he then gives feedback to the sport stars in question.

The perception football fans have of pre-season is hard graft, plenty of sweat and toil and lots of running but Ruddock insists that will not necessarily be the case.

The 27-year-old, who has worked with Sheffield United’s and Rotherham United’s academies, said: “There is enough information out there to suggest footballers do not need to do a lot of running to get fit. What you are looking at is very short, specific bursts of activity, separated by bits of high intensity.

“The longest that I have had players running for at a time is four minutes. Players will be doing a lot of speed work. They will be doing a lot of short sprints and working on their sprint techniques.

“They will be playing a lot of three on three and four on four on different sized pitches. That really challenges them and helps develop their fitness.”