Football may well be called the beautiful game but what many fans don't see is the gruelling work put in by players in pre-season. I always used to underestimate the importance of fitness and conditioning but after starting my own pre-season, I owe the professionals an apology.
As myself and my mates found out to our discomfort last week, there is a massive difference between a kick about and a proper team. First up there's positions as opposed to flair football we usually play. Then there's fitness.
I'm in bits!
We all arrive down to the local field, then without so much as a touch of the football, training begins. And we won't see that football for another 40 minutes, two laps around the field with the second incorporating sprints on the straights. At this stage I need to catch my breath but straight into suicides!
Five cones spread ten metres apart, doesn't look too menacing. Then these traffic cones are explained, to the first and back, second and back, third and back, etc... All at 100 per cent. Split into teams so now we're running for pride, lovely incentive is presented to the lads, losers do 20 push ups.
I win my first heat and I'm pretty happy about that as well but our team eventually falls behind and loses. 20 push ups...1...2...3...4...5...etc! OK that was a good fitness session, I'm pleased until the gaffer announces a sprint to the end of the field and back, starting...NOW.
I'm back and and at this stage despretly requiring a break and some water, but the manager has other plans, more suicides! At least this time we don't lose but it doesn't feel like a prize as we're ordered to sprint to the end of the field one more time. There is no liquid in my mouth at this stage and my lungs are in my mouth!
We take a few minutes breather and are finally allowed some water but straight into some possession work. At least it's some ball work and no fitness but when ten guys are enclosed in a 7 by 7 metre space, movement is a must and I find myself losing breath yet again.
Finally after 50 minutes of gruelling fitness, we break into a practice match which will allow minimum movement for myself. Centre Defence is my position and only the odd slide tackle and clearing header is required as my team is dominating the match.
Yet they begin to come back and I begin to make simple mistakes, sloppy passes, bad shots and poor tackles. Yet this only drives me onto succeed even more, trying to play the game and cut out mistakes is mentally challenging never mind physical!
When the whistle blows I'm happy with my preformance and pushing myself has paid off, isn't that the most rewarding thing, when all your work comes off and you see results? Thats why we love football.