Spend a few minutes in the company of Wolves’ new fitness coach Mal Purchase and it immediately becomes clear as to the main principle which have shaped his career so far.
Hard work. More hard work. And then, some more hard work after that.
“The manager here is non-stop and I am non stop,” says Purchase.
“I don’t want to go anywhere where things are easy – that is not my style.”
It is that high work ethic coupled with his expertise in his field which will now be to the benefit of the Molineux backroom staff thanks to Purchase’s arrival.
His efforts alongside manager Dean Saunders and assistant Brian Carey played a key role in the trio’s successes with Wrexham and Doncaster, and he is now relishing the chance to put all into practice in his new post with Wolves.
“It’s a great opportunity for us at a fantastic club,” says Purchase.
“Everyone has been really welcoming and all of the staff have been tremendous to us.
“Nobody has put any roadblocks in front of us and all the players have embraced the new things we have brought in - we are all enjoying it.
“I’m always a great believer that whatever happens, happens – and if you work hard and get an opportunity then you take it in your stride and do the best you can.
“If you’re giving 100 per cent and people can see you are working hard I think they will always forgive you.
“In this industry you have got to have a lot of knowledge and keep yourself updated on developments all the time.
“So even when you go away from the training ground your work hasn’t finished – you have got to keep researching and looking at new developments which might work.
“It is a seven days a week job and you are up early and home late – it never stops.”
Purchase continues: “I feel it’s important to do your work for the supporters because they don’t want lazy people working for their club and stealing a living.
“I always look at it and think if I was a supporter what would I want? And I just want to do my best for Wolves and try and help get the club back to where it was.
“Whatever happens it won’t be for the lack of effort.
“When I’ve left a job they have always wanted to keep me and that is the sort of thing I want to do here in terms of doing my bit to improve things.”
Purchase has been involved in football for some considerable time - it is now approximately 15 years since he started taking conditioning sessions at Wrexham for the team then managed by Bryan Flynn.
He spent some time then working with fitness coach Damien Roden at Manchester City, while the Flynn link also saw him working with the Wales Under-21 team.
Saunders’ arrival at Wrexham saw the start of a journey which then saw all three depart for Doncaster before now checking in at Molineux.
“On our first day at Doncaster there we only had 12 players out training and a further 16 in the treatment room,” Purchase recalls.
“I went there, looked at it and made a few changes and made some big decisions to change things.
“I put my own ideas in and from there, of the three players who hadn’t played for two years we worked with them all summer and all three have played at least 20 games this season already.
“When we left the club there was no one left in the treatment room.
“At Wolves now, it’s about getting the players in to do the work to improve and doing what we can to keep the injury list down.
“As a coach or manager, if your best players are not on the pitch you can end up losing your job so we do everything that we can to keep those players on the pitch.
“That’s the message we will be reinforcing while we are here.”
Wolves have pursued an active ‘pre-hab’ programme for several years now aiming to carry out extra activities before and after training in order to aim to reduce the risk of tissue injuries.
That sort of ‘core’ work is one of Purchase’s specialities, and he has already set about adding and aiming to improve the programme already in place.
It was also noticeable that those members of the first team squad who only played a few minutes against Blackpool on Saturday were joined by the unused substitute and others who didn’t get on the bench for a vigorous post-match session long after the fans had left the stadium.
“In football it is sometimes not easy to fit the extra things in, and that is our challenge,” Purchase explains.
“The players are training hard out there on the training pitch and also have a lot of games in this league.
“The secret is to get the work in without it really affecting the outdoor training,
“And whatever we do with the players has got to improve them.
“If the players have got stronger and more powerful legs they are harder to break on the pitch and will withstand more injuries.
“If you keep on sprinting you can only go so quick - you have to condition your legs to go faster, jump higher and be more durable.
“We put on a few sessions in a morning and do a lot of leg work before they go out.
“We’ve also got the goalkeepers in a group doing sessions as well to improve their leg power and we are introducing a lot of new core exercises.
“And we are also working with the injured players trying to get them back as quickly as we can.
“There are 30 to 40 players here and we only have a certain amount of time.
“You have them in groups but there are also individuals we need to work on and that is what we are setting in place as well.”
Purchase is also having additional input into the players’ nutritional habits, ensuring they make the most of all the hard work taking place on the training pitch.
“It’s about making sure the players eat properly because nutrition is such an important part of the game now,” he added.
“And that’s important because we are a bit more intense in the way we train.
“It’s a case of not letting them out until they have eaten properly or not letting them out until they have had their protein shake.
“It is a waste of a session if they don’t have the right food because that is the growing stage.
“It’s about opening a window and if you don’t feed that window of opportunity you have lost it.
“The onus is on the players but we are the ones who have got to keep at them and making sure they are doing it.
“And that is every day.
“It is not telling them to do it and then expecting they will do it but we will keep at them and making sure they do it otherwise it doesn’t work.
“We have got to get the nutrition spot on and that is why we also do a lot of conditioning work.
“Legs, core and power work is the main base of the conditioning work that we do – that is our emphasis.
“We’ve got different groups doing their work now before going outside for training and hopefully that should start filtering through soon.”
And Purchase is also joining Tony Daley in administering the regular testing programme for players, designed to check on progress and raise alerts to any potential problems.
The message to the injured players has been clear – “you will be working far harder than when you are fit” – while the staff are also putting themselves under pressure to reduce the list of casualties.
“Everyone has been screened at the club but we also have to do the work that the screening has identified on any imbalances,” he explains.
“If you’ve got a car with a flat tyre and leave it for six weeks and do nothing to it you have still got a flat tyre.
“And that’s the same with footballers.
“They have been screened and imbalances have been identified and so we will try and get in there and address those imbalances before the player breaks down.
“We’ve got the list now with one or two who have had problems and are getting them in and prioritising them.
“I am also watching training every day and watching the players and their movement patterns.
“I look at their sessions in the morning and identify things that need addressing.
“The way you improve from the testing process tells you whether you are a good coach or not.
“As soon as you test a player you are then under pressure as a coach, as well as the player.
“And that’s a pressure we would always relish because without it you shouldn’t be in the job.
“The manager has pressure and we should have our own pressure to produce.
“Because if we test somebody we have got a figure and then we’ve got to improve that figure, and I like working under that sort of pressure.
“If you haven’t confidence in your own ability to improve players then you shouldn’t be in the job.
“It has worked well in the last two jobs at Wrexham and Doncaster and we will be looking to do the same here.
“If we do get players injured we work them very hard.
“We don’t want the gym to be a nice place to be – it has to be a feared place to go.
“When they go in there they have to know it is going to be a very hard place to work.
“There will be no easy places to train here – it will be hard out on the training pitch and it will be even harder in the gym.
“If you come to play for Wolverhampton Wanderers you have got to be able to work.
“At some clubs it seems to be easy to be injured and takes less work than if you are fit.
“I think the players will realise here that they would much sooner be out there doing the outdoor training than be in the gym.”
And the possible utopia for Purchase?
When all the backroom staff are able to do their work with players before and after training and are then free to observe themselves the..
“At Doncaster we got to a stage where we all used to watch training on the pitch most days, including the physios because there was no one there to treat,” he says.
“The gym was the busiest place from 9 o’clock to 10.30 and then again from 12.30 to 2pm when the players were doing their extra work.
“And then at the vital time from 10.30 the gym was empty because they were all out there on the training pitch.
“That is when you get perfection – when you have got the whole squad out there and the whole medical staff out there watching training.
“All the work is done before and after and then you can watch the players training and see things before they happen.
“If something happens we can see how it has happened and where the contact is and deal with it quicker.
“That is the way we work.
“Dean works really hard and from the first time I met him I knew it would be suit me because I can work with people like that.
“I like to work hard and that is when you get results, and if you don’t work hard then bad things will happen to you.”