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I don’t want a holiday in the sun!

4 months ago

I have seen quite a few comments on The Mag and the general media, about the Newcastle United squad’s trip to Saudi Arabia during this break between matches.

There seems to be a lot of negative comments, certainly from the media and other team’s fans, even from some of our own.

The Newcastle players seem to be “jetting off for a holiday” or they will “come back worse.”

Well here’s my take on the break based on my own sporting experience and what I have seen over the years, especially at Manyoo.

Most sports, football included, require what is called a base level of fitness. This is where you start building up your aerobic strength with steady runs at a predetermined heart rate. This is a combination of level 1 and level 2 training runs, working up to about 75/80% of max heart rate. It’s sort of like driving your car at 56mph – optimising it’s fuel economy. Our players did this in June and July with sessions like a 30 min run or 400m running reps.

The next step is to tap in to level 3, which are bursts of effort that can be held for about 5 mins or so. Finally come the sprints, which are all out effort – the cherry on the top of the training cake. After that couple of months you should be ready to go, or race fit, as I used to call it.

For me, these sessions were done in Winter, ready for the triathlon race season. So what’s this got to do with Newcastle United and a break in the sun in Saudi Arabia? Well let me explain.

During a season of football or triathlon, you are going to have dips in performance. This is a natural state as it isn’t possible to stay on absolute top form for longer than a couple of months. I used to refer to it as an 8 week performance cycle and I’d plan my races around this. The planning involved easing off, intruding a bit of base work and then building sharpness again.

So our footballers and the sports science staff have to monitor the players during games and training to see if they can perform, hence the heart rate monitors, trackers etc and players then being rested. So that takes us on to our break in the sun. It’s going to give our player the chance to ease off and rebuild.

They will have been pushed hard by Eddie in comparison to the pieman and they will need a rest mentally and physically – maybe why we conceded late on v Watford when our players looked knackered. I’m guessing a few of them are at the end of their performance cycle. The warm weather will also play an important part in the training as it will allow them to redevelop their sharpness. Ever wondered why all the best sprinters come from hot countries, or all our top athletes train in hot places?

And what about manyoo? Well for those of us of a certain age you could almost tell what month it was (March and April) based on the progress of SAF’s team. It wasn’t a fluke and it wasn’t a coincidence, it was expert planning by him and his staff to identify when he needed his players at their sharpest and how to tailor their training accordingly. They juggled their training and performances brilliantly.

We need to do something similar. We need to get our players rested, recovered and refocused. Hopefully players like Willock will really benefit, along with maybe Longstaff and Shelvey, who can try and regain that fraction of a second’s pace that warm weather training can give you.

Or maybe they are just going to have a nice time, who knows!


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