How Newcastle United can get players back on the pitch
Newcastle United once again find themselves in the middle of a juggling act, the club riddled with injuries of all descriptions and struggling to field a settled side.
The manager being forced into an almost game-by-game switch of key personnel as he tries to come up with a squad of players that fit his desired tactics and keep some form of rhythm going.
Now while some are blaming Pardew in this, throwing anything they can at the incumbents in charge of the day to day running of the club, this is in fact rather harsh. We have long had this problem, from the days of Keegan through to Robson and everything in between. Even the sports science of Big Sam’s approach couldn’t rid us of the injuries that have plagued the club for far too long.
We’ve all heard stories of Mackem shirts buried in the walls of St James’ putting a curse on the club, we’ve heard that the training ground is too firm, we’ve heard that there are issues with the training regime being too hard and ‘real-life’ match scenarios causing players to dive in too ‘strongly’ and injure their fellow team-mates.
Whatever the reason, we don’t know. What’s the answer? We don’t know that for sure either, but it is long overdue that something is addressed.
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There is certainly something to be said for toning down training. While pre-season may require the need to go about a prep-scenario where you treat a training match as the real thing, to get back into the right mindset and sharpen your skills, surely once the season has kicked off, there is no need to go about things in this manner.
After all, the team is playing 1-2 games a week, every week…if they don’t play then the reserves or U21 teams are playing so they still get some match-time. Adding that extra ‘full-contact’ match in training just seems an unnecessary risk.
So what do I think they should be training? Simple. Ball skills, general high-fitness, low-impact training such as pool work, bike work etc. Set-piece training, going over tactics and the like should make up a good portion of day-to-day training, but you don’t need full contact match practice to do this…you aren’t going to simulate the opposition, so surely it’s not required.
Perhaps I am oversimplifying the problem. But more emphasis on recovery, flexibility work and/or employing potentially controversial methods like Tai Chi, acupuncture or dietary changes would be more beneficial. One thing is for certain, having to pay a player who is injured and can’t play for you isn’t the most effective way to run a squad as threadbare as ours is. Even having a change in the training pitches and assessing if the ground is too hard/soft is a good approach.
I also think there is perhaps too much emphasis placed in strength training these days. Particularly with the amount of players who we see go backwards, seems to indicate that flair players who rely on speed and agility lose that – it could be because the club looks to ‘harden players up’ for the more physical English style…which personally I think is an outdated mentality.
There are plenty of skilful players who aren’t necessarily physically strong but are very effective…this isn’t 1970s hoofball where the biggest and strongest team, who can bump the other player off the ball, wins. The other downside to lots of strength training is it makes you less flexible and being less flexible means muscle injuries and tendon tears are going to be more likely…which is exactly what we see as the vast majority of injuries at the club…hamstrings, muscle tears, knee ligament injuries.
Leaving aside impact related injuries which are unavoidable, if we could reduce the number of muscle and ligament injuries then it would be a huge step in the right direction!
One thing is for certain, we do need to look at what is wrong, we need players fit and raring to go. It isn’t Pardew’s fault, but he can be the solution by thinking a little outside the box. Don’t misunderstand, injuries happen, it’s a fact of life. I would just like the see the number reduced as our current rate is unsustainable and shouldn’t be that high.
As with everything about how this club is run, in order to be effective on the pitch we need to streamline things, run things as efficiently as possible. Hopefully reducing injuries is one way to help that efficiency. Fingers crossed.
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