Tony Daley on the detail of pre-season
It takes plenty of planning, plenty of hard work, and an all-round team effort from all of Wolves’ backroom staff.
But pre-season remains Tony Daley’s favourite time of year!
Wolves Head of Sport Science and Conditioning works closely with the medical staff in putting plans forward to Head Coach Kenny Jackett for the team’s six weeks pre-season programme.
And it got underway on Monday, with today the last of three days of testing for the players now back at Compton Park.
Pass those tests, and they will start to pass a football again, with Jackett and his coaching staff then starting the pitch work aiming to have Wolves ready to succeed come the big kick-off in August.
“It is probably my busiest time and my most enjoyable time in the season,” says Daley.
“It is about getting the players ready and is a time when the sports science staff can have an influence on what we are going to do this season.
“It is a great opportunity to increase the levels of fitness in terms of endurance, speed, power, agility, and is vital that we use this time wisely and are professional.
“The first three days involve a lot of testing, and comparing it to how they did in those tests at the end of last season.
“They have to reach a certain level before the football work starts again but isn’t usually a problem – infact I’m in my eighth or ninth season now and there hasn’t yet been a player who has come back in a state which has meant they can’t join in with the football straightaway.
“It is good to know where they are and what levels they are at.
“We have about 40 players to go through the testing and they are put into three groups.
“Those tests are rotated over the three days, and then after that they will start doing some football work for the next couple days along with further endurance work but nothing two tough.”
Those three groups of tests are designed to assess different aspects of the players’ strength and fitness levels, for two reasons.
To ensure they are ready to step up their pre-season and make the gradual improvement needed to hit ‘peak’ levels for the first weekend in August, and also to show up any particular weaknesses which can be worked on over the season to reduce the risk of injury.
As Daley explains.
“One of the tests if the yo-yo interval test, in terms of endurance it is very similar for players in terms of stopping and starting in a match, and high speed running,” he says.
“It can last from anywhere from eight to 12 minutes in terms of overall running it can be tough and they are generally shattered afterwards!
“It gives us an idea about what levels they are at and where they are going to be.
“In four weeks time they will be tested again to see where the levels are and we will probably find a significant improvement.
“Another of the tests takes place in the Arena – four different tests including jump tests – to assess where they are in terms of their leg power.
“They also do some sprint tests, over 10 and 30 metres, and some agility tests, which again gives us an idea about what the priorities need to be with these players during pre-season.
“The third group will do some screening with the physios to see where they are in terms of that leg power and strength and that will influence what work they need to do over the whole season in terms of injury prevention.
“And also the body fat composition tests to see if they have piled any pounds on during the close season and what muscle they have got.
“Again these will be repeated in a few weeks and 99% of the time you find that the work they has done has a positive influence.
“So the physio screening is something that will play a role over the whole season whereas the physicality side we are looking at the players being ready to reach a peak for the first game.
“You don’t want players not to be ready for that first game - they need to be able to maintain that level of fitness, especially when you are playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday and the days in between are about maintenance.
“You don’t want anyone playing catch up and needing to gain fitness by that stage.
“We want to get the player as fit and strong as possible, whereas the screening helps with injury prevention work over the whole season.
“If a player maybe has a weak hamstring, or some instability in their posture, the medical staff will pick that up and be able to work on it over the season.”
Wolves have enjoyed an impressive injury record in recent years, up until a series of unavoidable impact injuries which affected last season.
Daley, who says pre-season is now far different to when he was a player, believes the work carried out over these next few weeks is vital to reduce the risk of muscle problems over the course of a challenging Sky Bet Championship season.
“The time when I was playing you would get six weeks off and pretty much do nothing for six weeks and then come back and for the first couple of weeks run half marathons to burn some of that fat off that you have gained,” he says.
“Some players used to come back a stone overweight – but that doesn’t happen anymore.
“The lads have had seven weeks off and within their programmes there will have been a couple of weeks of down time.
“Then it is a gradual build-up so they are ready to start again for pre-season and there are no surprises.
“The players do keep themselves extremely fit and then it is about building up to peak for the first game of the season.
“They realise that all the hard work they put in over the next few weeks will pay off during the season and we have got a good bunch who understand the importance.
“We have to push them to the right levels and not too far in terms of the loads being too high and risking injury.
“It is over the coming weeks that we ramp it all up a little bit and yes it will be tough.
“But with our monitoring systems and using GPS we can check and make sure it is a positive influence on the players so that they are not overloading or running the risk of picking up injuries.
“The most crucial aspect is that the players complete as much as they can of pre-season – research tells us that if they can do that it stands them in good stead for the rest of the season in terms of injury prevention and their levels of fitness.”
They realise that all the hard work they put in over the next few weeks will pay off during the season