Comment: How Sheffield Wednesday have covered all bases in their Portugal pre-season training camp

Steve Bruce is a man of his word.

Friday, 5th July 2019, 2:24 pm
Updated Friday, 5th July 2019, 8:41 pm

The Owls manager warned his squad they would be in for a shock this pre-season.

"Make no mistake, they (the players) will have to work hard," said Bruce at the club's community fun day Owls in the Park.

And Bruce's players have been suffering in boiling hot temperatures during their training camp in Portugal.

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Adam Reach cools down in the Portugal heat during Day 4 of Sheffield Wednesday's training camp in the Algarve

It is by far and away the the toughest camp I have witnessed first hand.

The players have not been topping up their tans in the Algarve and stuffing their faces with pastel de nata's every day. They have had to seriously knuckle down and work hard.

With temperatures in the high 20s, the squad have largely trained twice a day.

What I have found particularly striking is the amount of planning and attention to detail that has gone into the sessions. No stone has been left unturned.

The sessions have been well-structured and absolutely relentless. The coaching staff have constantly mixed things up, varying the drills and keeping everything fresh.

As expected, the sessions have featured plenty of fitness based work. From cross country running to shuttle runs across the length of the pitch.

But there has also been plenty of ball work, including passing circuits using mannequins and dribbling drills.

Tony Strudwick, the club's newly-appointed head of sports science and medicine, told The Star: "I think the manager Steve Bruce is keen to really set the standards high and really raise the bar in terms of where we are as a group and I think with that comes that level of intensity that he wants from training and the players have responded to that.

"It has been intense and that's part of the manager's philosophy of what he wants and what he demands and the requirements of this league. That cascades down through the staff and translates onto the grass."

It is a delicate balancing act trying to get the right mix of hard graft and fun.

Quite often the players have played a round of golf, snooker, swimming, card games or watched television around the hotel in their downtime. Morale is high in the squad, which has been boosted by the arrival of Julian Börner, Moses Odubajo and Kadeem Harris (although their signings have still yet to be officially confirmed).

Everything is geared towards getting the team fully prepared for their Championship opener at Reading on August 3.

"It's really important we hit the ground running," said Strudwick. "In any league, but in particular this league, it's about gaining momentum and physical momentum, psychological momentum, that's really, really important.

"You only need to see the momentum we got towards the back end of last season. That kind of builds and with that comes the kind of team spirit and a kind of physical fitness and resilience that's important. It's really important we hit the ground running and so it's important we hit this fitness base during this period of the year."

I hope I have given Wednesdayites a little flavour of the Portugal camp over the last few days. It has been great to go behind the scenes and to get to know the players and coaching staff better.

Everybody has made me feel very welcome and I would like to thank the club for giving me such incredible access to the first half of the trip. It has been very insightful and a real eye-opener.

Bruce said: "To play consistently in the Championship, you have to be fit and, over the last couple of years, the club unfortunately has fallen down in that respect.

"Hopefully a good pre-season under everybody's belt will give the players the intensity that we have to work at."

One thing is for certain: if the players aren't fit after this pre-season, they never will be.