Watches, dumbbells and reports to Tony Strudwick: How Sheffield Wednesday players are spending life in lockdown
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And since Sheffield Wednesday suspended training late last week and sent players off homeward clutching bespoke training routines, the only insight into how things have been going has been through the kaleidoscope of social media; the likes of Fernando Forestieri having posted snapshots of cycling machines and lifting weights.
The Owls trained on later than many clubs up and down the league. No players had reported symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic and Garry Monk was faced with a full squad for the majority of over a fortnight at Middlewood Road.
It’s an opportunity he is understood to have taken full advantage of. The Owls boss has time and again spoken of the disadvantage of not having had the opportunity to lead a pre-season at Wednesday and as the season was put on indefinite pause, it presented a chance to get back to basics.
The Star understands that an EFL recommendation sent out to clubs on training is that they do not resume until April 3 at the very earliest.
And so how, half a week into their home-based training regime, are the Owls players doing?
Club captain Tom Lees was the first to speak out on the bizarre new world at Wednesday, describing a ‘weird situation’ in the break-up of their usual routines.
“We trained for the week which was weird as there was no end date or target of a restart to work towards, as the date kept getting put back further,” he told swfc.co.uk.
“It’s just a very weird situation for players who, for all their lives, set their week out building up to a Saturday. We just had to take the latest date as a given and have that in our mind when training and working. As it stands, we are all healthy and feeling OK.
“The decision to train or not is out of our hands. It’s got to the point where pretty much everything has stopped and the government are telling everyone to stay at home.”
The decision to continue training well into last week was underpinned by the club’s determination to drag themselves out of a post-Christmas funk that has seen them descend into the bottom half of the table and out of play-off contention.
And that desire has not changed despite the difficult current circumstances, Lees said, with clear communication offered as to the importance of building on that extra time on the training ground.
Wednesday have won just two league matches in 2020 – two in their last 14 – with manager Monk have questioned the attitude of his squad on a handful of occasions, never more so than in their most recent defeat, a 5-0 loss at Brentford.
Owls skipper Lees reported a feeling of ‘anger’ within the squad towards their recent run and suggested it would spur them on to get eerything they can out of what is effectively an extended winter break from football
He said: “Before we left, we had another meeting and the fitness and conditioning team gave us a presentation on why we need to keep training at home and try as much as possible to maintain the fitness we have.
“All the points the manager had made a week earlier were reiterated, but then the science behind that too; reduction in the chance of injury, how your body responds when not active and all these kind of things.
“We have not been playing well and results were not what we wanted. There was a lot of disappointment and anger around. We had a meeting with the manager on Friday [before the first suspended fixture with Nottingham Forest] and it was basically outlined that we will carry on training as normal.
“We need to maintain and also improve our fitness, work on our games individually and collectively and use the time we have to make sure that when the game does restart, we are ready to go because it's a big set of remaining fixtures.
“We didn’t deserve to have any time off, although it felt like all the football world was closing down around the country. Hopefully the benefit of staying fit and training will show later on.”
Every player has their own specific programme to follow and are in constant contact with the club’s sports science department, led by the highly respected former Manchester United fitness coach Tony Strudwick.
Lees gave a little insight into what sort of things the players are doing to keep their fitness in ultimate condition: “Running, cycling, gym work and stretching sessions are what’s in there each day. We have watches that we wear which upload the data to an app that the fitness staff can review and make records of - so there’s no getting away from it!
“We do have a return date for training but whether that may need to be revised is another thing. It will be strange as still, there doesn’t seem to be any clarity on what may happen and when or how the season is going to be resolved, but it’s just up to the boys now to do what they can training-wise in whatever direction the country has to go.
“I’m sure we are going to have a mini pre-season when we return back full time, so it will go towards making that first session back a little easier!”
Professional football in England is currently set to resume from April 30. Wednesday’s first game back on that basis would be a home game against Middlesbrough.