Tony Strudwick on sports science, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sheffield Wednesday's pre-season training camp in Portugal

For Tony Strudwick, sports science has rapidly evolved in football.

By Dom Howson
Monday, 08 July, 2019, 16:11

"When I first started at Coventry over 20 years ago, sports science was very much in its infancy," Strudwick told The Star. "There was this influx of different models.

"We had Arsene Wenger coming over to England and we then had a Scandinavian influence. We also had an Italian influence and latterly a Portuguese influence.

"Sports science is constantly shifting and it is about trying to stay ahead of the curve."

Strudwick, the Owls' newly-appointed head of sports science and medicine, admits it "can be tough" to get footballers and managers to get behind sports science.

The former Manchester United fitness coach said: "I have worked with managers in the past where I have really had to sell it to them.

"For other managers, it is an easy sell. I think that's where as a practitioner and a member of staff you have got to find a way to communicate with your manager.

"If I had put a 10 page report on Sir Alex Ferguson's desk, it would still be there 10 weeks later. That was not the way to communicate (with him). The way to communicate in that environment was on the grass.

"It was feeding him critical information at the right time."

Strudwick, a hugely-respected sports science coach, spent over a decade at Old Trafford. He worked closely under Ferguson before Louis van Gaal switched him to a role working predominantly with the club’s younger players.

Tony Strudwick spoke to The Star's Dom Howson about his new role

He said: "It was a fantastic experience at United and I learned a lot of things from a lot of good people.

"We obviously had that stability with Sir Alex Ferguson for so many years at Manchester. It was quite a fluid philosophy.

"We then saw, quite rapidly, some different philosophies in a short period of time.

"Louis van Gaal was an incredibly diligent coach. He was a good teacher of the game and his attention to detail was great. Everything was well-organised and well planned.

New head of sports science and medicine Tony Strudwick

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"Everything in terms of the player experience was fed to them so there were no excuses.

"There was then the Portuguese philosophy where it was about playing football. I didn't really get an opportunity to work with Jose Mourinho but I saw some of the work and I thought there were some really excellent things that he did.

"As a fitness coach, it has always been about understanding what the head coach's philosophy is and then adapting it into the physical piece.

"If it is about out-working, outfighting and outplaying the opponents, then our job is to produce that physically and technically."

Pre-season is a hugely important time of the year and Strudwick has overseen a series of Wednesday's fitness drills on their Portugal training camp.

"It doesn't matter what level you play at, fans expect professional players to maximise everything they have got," said Strudwick. "I have got high standards and we expect high standards here.

New Sheffield Wednesday head of sports science and medicine Tony Strudwick (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

"But whatever players you work with - and you do work with players of different nationalities, I think you have got to find a way to connect with them.

"It is about building relationships with players so that you set your agenda very, very clearly on how you want them to train every day and what you expect from them.

"But, by the same token, you have still got to build a relationship and rapport with them and I think that is really, really important."

Strudwick is confident the Owls' squad will reap the rewards from their trip to the Algarve in the long run.

He said: "What we want is for this group and the pack to stay together and push each other on.

"At this point in the year, we are building base, robustness and resilience.

"But of course that's double-edge sword at times because the work that is required to take them to another level could be the work that breaks them down.

"The tough bit is where to pitch it. Do you pitch the work at a high level or a lower level?

"What we want to do is raise the standards of the group and that was made clear to me by Steve (Bruce). He wants to raise the standards of fitness and I must say the group of players have, so far, been fantastic.

"We want to be in the Premier League. For a club of our size, we should be in the Premier League so that is the challenge and that is what is going to drive us."