to be able to play 90 minutes almost every game…
Of course, football is a team sport but one of the key things is about how you manage individuals within that team structure. It’s not a case of having a one rule for all approach. We demand things from a team perspective, but there is very much an individual component to that. Some players like Patrice and Michael played four games in ten days over Christmas and Robin was also involved in all four. That tells you how important the recovery side of the game is as well and we’ve introduced some new recovery strategies that have so far gone down really well with the players. Some of the players will need extra recovery, while others will need additional work. That’s the challenge of our job really – to balance all the individuals. On any given day there are 25 to 30 first team players that we’re responsible for and they all have individual needs and requirements.
How far ahead do you plan with your department – might you see a free week a month or so ahead and earmark it for a period of rest, or a period of a certain form of training?
Yes, definitely. We tend to macromanagement the loads in terms of looking at the fixtures each month and then micromanage the loads within that. It’s difficult to do it from a seasonal perspective but you will have different periods throughout the season where we’ll reduce the training load when we’re going into a heavy fixture period, and when there are less games we can sometimes work the players harder. The week before we started the busy Christmas period against Swansea we had a free week and we felt that it would be good to work the players quite hard in order to carry them through that period and some of the players definitely benefitted from that. There is, of course, the other part