City boss Glenn Roeder this morning gave another intriguing peek behind the Colney curtains as the subject of the Canaries new, weekly training schedule came up.
Traditionally, Wednesday was the players' day off; that has now been switched to a Thursday. It leaves Roeder and his coaching team of No2 Lee Clark and Paul Stephenson with an opportunity to coach on a Friday and impart new ideas that then stay fresh in the players' minds come three o'clock the following day.
Or 5.20pm in the case of tomorrow's Sky clash with Colchester United at Layer Road.
The trap many modern coaches fall into, said Roeder, was to over-coach; to be out there every day; stop, starting, stop, starting. In the end, players switch off.
All they really want to do is play football. And come Mondays, that's all they do – have a 'free' session simply playing a seven-a-side tournament.
“I just get a sense that they're coming into training every day,” said Roeder, without a midweek game this week and next and, therefore, able to keep the kids amused with a simple game of footie. Evidence of their new-found enjoyment came in the noise levels that greeted him on his arrival back at City's training HQ on Monday morning.
“If I'd have come out the front entrance there when I'd first joined the club, then on the other side of the building you wouldn't have known anyone was training it was so quiet,” said Roeder.
City have never been blessed with life's larger characters, but you get the increasing impression that Roeder, Clark and Stephenson are starting to drag their new charges out of their shells – that the players are discovering just how good it is to talk, be it either at Carrow Road or Colney.
“I came out Monday morning and I thought the Army had turned up – there was screaming and shouting. I thought there was some sort of war going on out there.”
In reality, however, it was just a seven-a-side tournament going on; no clip-boards or stop-watches… just a glorified kick-around amongst the lads.
“I always like Monday mornings to be a football morning, not a coaching morning,” said the new City chief, offering a fascinating insight into his management methods. If anyone wishes to draw any parallels with his immediate predecessor, that's for them to ponder.
Roeder is far too much of a diplomat for that, but there is a degree of chalk and cheese to the two men's approach. It is a different kind of intensity that the former Newcastle United and West Ham chief has brought to bear on Norwich's training HQ.
“You can't coach them every day – I think that's the problem,” said Roeder. “I think that's the mistake that a lot of young coaches and managers make.
“They want to coach them every day to prove that they're good coaches. In my opinion, it's a massive mistake – because they can't handle it every day.”
His point was that for the vast majority of players, playing football is just a very enjoyable – and remunative – way of earning a living. Most are have no interest in the finer points of the UEFA 'Pro' licence coaching manual. It is only the select few who will pick out the technical apsects of a certain session and note it down for future reference. The rest just want to be kept entertained.
“You have to remember that 90, 95 per cent of players are not going to be coaches or managers. They love the game, but they're not that passionate that they want to go on and be coaches and managers – it's only those type of players that want to be coached every day.
“When it's stop, start; do this, do that… most of them can't maintain that enthusiasm; those concentration levels.” Something that Roeder suggested applied just as much to a Keiron Dyer as it might to, well, take you pick…
“That's not just here – that's the Premiership as well. Sometimes more so in the Premiership clubs because most of the players there will know the game anyway.
“So there has to be a balance what I call 'free play practice' and coaching. And, for me, coaching is later in the week.”
Beginning of the week and it wasn't quite jumpers for posts, but nor was it out of any technical coaching manual.
“We organised a seven-a-side competition; no goalkeepers. Even Marshy (David Marshall) was an outfield player – and you can see why he's a goalkeeper – and they were just enjoying themselves. It was terrific. We had a prize for the winner – silly things like that. They're like little boys really. Most of the time.”
Come Friday and that's the time for them all to sit down and concentrate; play time over. Little wonder that there's a new-found bounce at Colney; that performances on the pitch have started to pick up to such a dramatic degree.
“I just feel they're fully focussed now,” he added. “Enjoying what they're doing on a daily basis. Certainly I get the impression that when they get out of bed in the morning they want to come in and train – if they don't, then they've got a funny way of showing it! In fact, I've forgotten the last time I had to pull someone up for not putting it all in.
“You just know that they're finishing practices thinking that they've got something out of the day – which is what it's all about.
“There can't be anything worse than coming into training, going through the motions, going home and thinking: 'Well, I didn't get anything out of that today… that's another day of my life wasted…'