Players return from their summer holidays this week,
some barely a month after their last game, but all will be expected to hit the
Considering the brevity of their breaks - and the
shortness of the leashes they are kept on by their clubs - most players should
not be too unfit when they arrive back.
During the off-season, a top flight
player's every move - including what
he eats and drinks - is monitored by his club and scrutinised by the press in
As such, Premier League players' fitness levels, already incredibly high, have barely had a chance to
drop off, making their return to training that bit
It was different in my day when pre-season was an
unpleasant time of the year for me - and many others.
Back then we were allowed a little more leeway in what
we could get up to on our holidays and with a longer period between the end of
the season and the beginning of the new one, getting back into shape was
difficult at best.
The first thing we did at training camp was a gruelling
endurance race, and considering I was more a sprinter than a long-distance
runner, more often than not I struggled.
The most physically demanding pre-seasons I suffered
were when I was with Fulham and we used to go jogging through Richmond Park or along the River Thames from Craven
Cottage until we were on our knees.
But these days the emphasis during pre-season has
shifted and it is not all about seemingly endless cross-country runs.
Training methods have moved with the times and, with players' fitness levels already relatively high when they
return, there is no need to put them through what we used to have to go
Instead more emphasis is put on developing agility and
flexibility during that first week back, certainly at Premier League
Of course, in the tougher lower divisions, brute
strength is still an asset and those clubs' training regimes are more likely to resemble the
ones I undertook at QPR and Fulham.
But at least for the top flight clubs, pre-season
training should not be something to be feared, nor should the shortness of the
summer break be a bone of contention.
Considering the length of a player's career, the relatively short-term sacrifice of a
dry and healthy summer holiday will be well worth the rewards to be reaped once