Sheffield Wednesday in Portugal: New Owls fitness guru Tony Strudwick on Steve Bruce and the Championship
It was towards the back end of last season when Tony Strudwick received a phone call from Steve Bruce asking if he would be interested in joining his Sheffield Wednesday backroom staff.
Bruce offered Strudwick the position of head of sports science and medicine. The opportunity to return to club football proved too good for Strudwick to turn down.
Speaking exclusively to The Star from the Owls' Portugal training base, Strudwick said: "Steve laid out his vision and it was an easy sell. It's a big club. It is local to where I live, which is always a great thing. It is important that you don't spend too much time travelling to work and you're fresh for work.
"I had a chat with the manager and met the owner. They told me the vision of the club and it was an easy sell with a view to coming in in pre-season so that's how it came about and I am delighted to be on board."
It is the first time Strudwick, who lives in Worksop, has worked with Bruce in his career but he says their paths have crossed on the circuit over the years due to their Manchester United connections. Strudwick spent over a decade at Old Trafford, initially working as a fitness coach under Sir Alex Ferguson before Louis van Gaal switched him to a role working predominantly with the club's younger players.
After leaving the Theatre of Dreams, Strudwick landed a job as head of performance role at Wales. He will continue his duties with the Welsh national team while working at Hillsborough.
"As soon as Steve phones you up, it is an easy sell and decision," he said. "Steve is a serial winner so he understands the requirements of winning and doing well in this league.
"My initial priority is to assess where we are at and I think Steve has got a vision of what he feels is needed in this league and how he wants to play. He has his philosophy.
"He wants the players to be fit and robust.
"Consequently, as members of staff, it's our job to cascade that down.
"Steve is crystal clear with his requirements and what he wants from his players and staff.
"From my perspective, it is about building a rapport with the existing staff. I must say we have got some really good support staff who know the players and the landscape of the Championship. It is a relentless league.
"When you look at the physical demands of the Championship, I think it is probably one of the most demanding leagues in Europe, if not the world. The games come thick and fast and I have experienced that with West Ham United.
"I had two years with West Ham in the Championship. It really is about maximising your fitness and trying to keep your best players fit. If we do maximise the availability of our squad, we have got a group that is good enough to do well."
Strudwick, who has been a practitioner for more than 20 years and has also worked with the England at the 2014 World Cup, has overseen plenty of the fitness drills in Wednesday's pre-season training camp in the Algarve this week. He has been delighted by the players' attitude and application in soaring temperatures.
"I must say in the short time I have been with the players I have been really impressed with their mentality, culture and togetherness of the squad," he said.
"If we can keep them on the grass - that is our primary responsibility, maximising fitness - then with the coaching staff we have got, we will give ourselves a really good opportunity to be successful."
So what are Strudwick's methods?"You have to make sure that everybody buys into the process of sports science monitoring and the process of understanding that it is about working hard and being professional," he said. "It is not about coming in and saying we need to minimise injuries.
"It is about coming in and saying we need to create the right culture for Sheffield Wednesday Football Club. It is a culture of work because that's what the manager wants.
"We have high standards as well and attention to detail is important. We have to be diligent with our work and try to be innovative with the sports science but keeping the tradition of what it is and making sure very training session is of an intensity that is required in the Championship.
"It is about training harder and smarter and to build that robustness through time."