Back in the day Ron Saunders would unleash the joys of Mousehold on his returning troops; pre-season back then not being compartmentalised into fitness tests followed by stuff that will make you even fitter.
Things are of course vastly different now, even before Team Farke adds Germanic efficiency to the Colney fitness regime, and if you haven’t you really should have a watch of the club’s A Day In The Life Of Russell Martin YouTube video.
That things are more scientific now compared to the Mousehold years is obvious but quite the extent to which things have changed was laid bare in the piece, which followed Russ through from his Colney arrival at 8:45am to his departure at 3:25pm.
In the early 80s a pal and I occasionally would hop on the Eastern Counties ‘rattler’ from Halesworth to Norwich, disembark at Trowse and spend the morning watching our heroes train.
While there was no sign of the players being whizzed down to Mousehold for some hill running, there was a simplicity and casualness about proceedings that now seems befitting of the pre-Sky era.
In fact it was not dissimilar to my own training experiences at Wenhaston Playing Field a few years later, under the iffy floodlights on a Tuesday night, with time-keeping and pre-session warm-ups being kept to the bare minimum. (I will concede however that the footballing quality on display was edged by those at Trowse, Martin O’Neill et al).
But in both instances it was a far cry from what occurs now.
To precis Russ’s ‘day in the life’, his Colney arrival was followed by (deep breath) physical and body-weight testing, a wellness and readiness to train assessment, individual movement assessment, blood and urine sample analysis, heart rate measurement, the taking of supplements, the measuring of hydration levels and breakfast (with no bacon or eggs to be seen).
The main training session didn’t begin until 11:15 and was preceded by individual training prep, a physio session, the fitting of the individual GPS trackers and ‘mini-conditioning’. Only then were the players permitted to grace the Colney turf and once the session was over they were sent straight into the cryotherapy tank for two, two and a half minute blasts.
A strength, power and injury prevention session followed, together with a protein shake, and before they departed there was an assessment of their physical performance stats. No stone left unturned.
And it’s fair to assume this is akin to what occurs at training grounds up and down the country – the marginal gains made famous by Dave Brailsford for British Cycling now being used in every aspect of elite sport.
All of which makes it doubly astounding that throughout last season the players struggled so much in the final quarter of games. Given the science on offer it seems almost inconceivable that they were not at their absolute peak of physical fitness, yet what unfolded in front of our very eyes told us otherwise.
The stats undoubtedly told the sports science team that everything was A1.
It was a conundrum that played its own part in the downfall of Alex Neil and his side’s almost total inability to win a game from a losing position played perfectly into the ‘they’re not fit enough’ narrative. For Alex to be presented with stats that belied what had unfolded before him would have been the source of huge frustration.
It would have been perplexing too for the now departed head of sports science Nick Davies, although ultimately maybe it was a tiredness of the mind rather than limbs that was to prove so costly for all concerned.
That the new head of sports science, Chris Domogalla, is someone who has worked with Daniel Farke at BvB came as no surprise and the new quartet – Farke, his assistant Edmund Riemer, new first team coach Christian Flüthmann and Domogalla – will give the new Colney a very different feel to the old one; one in which the freshness of mind and limb will be of equal importance.
For the sake of continuity and having an understanding of the Championship it’s healthy that Frankie McAvoy and Dean Kiely have opted to stay and both will have important roles to play as Team Farke dips its collective toe into, for them, the previously uncharted world of English football.
These are exciting times for sure but times that are also riddled with uncertainty and risk. The club is taking a gargantuan step into the unknown and it feels a little as if the whole caboodle still hinges on the decisions and instincts of Stuart Webber.
If he can pull this off, just as he did at Huddersfield, then his footballing stock will be approaching epic proportions; his place in Norwich City folklore assured. If it doesn’t work out we can quickly become another Ipswich Town. And no-one wants that.
But for now we have little reason to doubt his judgement, and the calls he’s made so far have been met with the minimum of derision. And on the Canary scale that’s one hell of a good start.
“Never mind the danger…”