Today our lot head back to the ranch for the dreaded fitness assessments.
I wonder what is going through their minds. And I’m not sure I even want to know what has been going through their physical systems during that glorious “month off”.
With money to burn, many of them must have been sunning themselves in places the rest of us might baulk at due to price concerns. Maybe one or two have stayed at home largely digging their allotments, re-plastering their houses (Bradley Johnson might have done) and generally enjoying quality time with their friends and young families in a relatively docile fashion. Whatever.
Unlike some, I don’t begrudge our players a single second of their downtime. Some of us would struggle to adhere to the schedules they are forced to observe. Money isn’t everything.
We almost certainly know that Wes, CamJam, Russ Martin and a few others will come back in sparkling condition. Unless they’ve drastically changed their personal lifestyles, which I doubt. Professionals to the core, all of them.
But this time, it’s going to be a little different. Because we have a new sports scientist – or head of fitness if you prefer – and maybe the focus might be more intense from day one. Many supporters have criticised our apparent lack of fitness during the reign of Alex Neil.
All I know is that under AN we often ran out of gas in the last quarters of matches. Stuart Webber will have seen that and surely told Daniel Farke all about it.
Hence the removal of Nick Davies and the arrival of Chris Domogalla from Borussia Dortmund. Farke has got his own support team in, no doubt about it. I make it four from Dortmund now, without including Christoph Zimmermann. All good.
While I don’t know that much about the Bundesliga and its derivatives as such, I do know that fitness for work and commitment to “the cause” are key to the German way of progressing things. I experienced it in non-football related work for 20 consecutive years and understand the concept:
Work hard, be innovative when required and you will be handsomely rewarded. If not…
It’s the original FIFO as we have seen already by who has been released. I am sure if Stuart Webber can get rid of around three more players he will, but ridiculous extant contracts may prevent that in this window.
There will be no sympathy for any lard-arse returning from his holidays. One or two of them will not like it, although I would guess many of the usual suspects have already been offloaded. The German way is intertwined with efficiency, and in my experience it works.
Our guys will not be returning to Costa del Colney. Not this time.
If a player’s had a few too many beers and too much of the fatty foodstuff on his holidays, I’m sure he’ll be given time to put it right. And so it should be. But I sincerely doubt our new regime would tolerate a reoccurrence of that situation during the season. And with Webber’s reputation for due diligence, that could be why we don’t sign a couple of players folks might think we should.
I eat what I like and drink like a fish but I’m not a professional footballer, so I can. I would seriously suggest that the Webber-Farke partnership would not tolerate my lifestyle for a second.
When I broke an ankle for a second time, I had company medical insurance that allowed me to go to the City legend Tim Sheppard, who operated from his house in Grove Walk in those days. We spoke mainly about cricket, but also exchanged some football tales and he reeled off a few stories about excuses players made for not being able to train on any given day.
It was a laugh a minute and I’ve never found physio so enjoyable before or since. Thanks Tim.
But it won’t be like that for our returning squad. One or two might be in for a bit of a shock because a lot of grafting will be coming their way.
And the committed, hard-working and innovative ones will love it.