Tony, what went on back at Carrington before the team flew out to America?
We have a structure here where the first two days back are pretty much screening and testing. Much of that is to establish where the players are at and where their weaknesses lie. There are more functional screens and medical screens with Dr Steve McNally. We need to know where the players are at and what their priorities are to get them right for the first game of the season in August. Beyond that, we've pretty much gone into the football really early this year. Other years, we've had a little bit longer. But the first game [against New England Revolution] was nine days in, so the priority in the first week was to expose the players back to football and integrate that with the levels of conditioning. Much of the conditioning work is completed within a football environment. The classic pre-season of running up hills and running for eight miles is out of the window. Now it's all about base work in a football environment.
Friendly games don't matter so much to fans but the pre-seaon tour is massively important to you, right?
I think the way we look at the pre-season games is that we want them to give us every opportunity to get it right for the first away game at West Brom. Consequently, the players need enough exposure to be in the right frame of mind for that. Pretty much what you saw in Boston was some players getting 45 minutes but, because we only had 17 outfield players there (most of our Under-21 players are linking up in Seattle), three players had to play 90 minutes. We had to identify the players we felt could cope with that 90 minutes so soon after coming back from holiday. Before West Brom on the first day of the season, we'll be looking at the appropriate exposure rates for each player on the tour in terms of game time and we build that up gradually until we hit the Community Shield. Then we'll give whoever needs it 90 minutes at Wembley so