Having given their players a provisional fitness plan to work with since the League of Ireland stopped two weeks ago, Cork City are now putting together a revised programme which, with regular updating, will be designed to last them for a minimum of two months, June 19 being the current target date for a return to competitive action.
The man at the hub of City’s remote training action plan is club legend, assistant to manager Neale Fenn and Strength and Fitness coach, Joe Gamble.
“A two-month lay off is an extensive one and what we’ll have to is do give them a programme where they can work five or six days a week,” he says.
Especially because we’ve got so many younger lads, it gives them a two-month window to turn themselves into machines. That’s what I’ve been telling them: to inject some positivity and use the time to really focus on the intrinsic aspects of the game so that they can come out of this in really good shape.
“If you think about it, all coaches and managers have the problem that the players can really only train properly three days a week, because you have a match Friday, recovery Saturday, and Sundays off normally. Monday and Tuesdays we’d do double sessions, Wednesday you’d have off, and Thursday is match-day minus one. So for the lads who haven’t played as much, they’re at a particular disadvantage in getting up to the top fitness levels. So these two months off can be used as a time to reset and get everyone to the levels where they should be.”
Of course, he acknowledges that’s easier said than done in the current climate.
“It’s not ideal when you can’t get to a gym because the simple basic fact of this is that to get fast you need to get strong and to get strong you need to shift weights. You have certain traits that diminish faster than others. Your speed and power will go first, more so than your aerobic capacity. That’s like the foundation of a house: the stronger it is the more you can put on it. But that actually takes a long time to diminish.
“What we’ll be looking for lads to do is two speed sessions, one middle distance and one longer-distance four times a week. We’ll be asking our players to do a lot more sprints and a lot more speed work and a lot more power work.”
City have already given their players gym programmes they can use at home, with Gamble again emphasising that there is a lot they can do on their own if they have the will power to do it.
“100%,” he says. “OK, it’s not going to be the same because you don’t have the same amount of weights or equipment at home. But say a player has a weakness in the ankle, knee or hip, what we’ll be saying is: turn that weakness into strength. Doing single-leg balance exercises and single-leg squats are things you can do at home, no problem.
“In fact I’d say to any professional field sports person that single-leg work is more important than double-leg work. Think of the amount of time on the pitch you’re on a single leg: jumping, striking a ball, tackling. It’s very rarely over 90 minutes you’d have your two feet planted on the floor.
“Overall, we want the players to have a routine where every second day is a tough one. And the reason I say that to them is that if you train every day moderately, that’s OK, but you’re not really going to get gains from it. How you get gain is if you train really hard, take a recovery day to replenish what you’ve done, and the next day you go hard again.”
But even with the best laid plans and all the players buying in to them to the maximum, Gamble still foresees a challenging return to competitive football should June 19 prove a viable date.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” he says. “Even if you were to get back to full training at the start of June, that leaves you just two weeks leading up to the first game. And, to be honest with you, that’s not enough time because you can’t compare individual running and training to training games, whether they’re small-sided or big-sided. You want to get fellas used to the football again.
“There’s no doubt that if every club has just two or three weeks’ training, the first two or three games are going to be very difficult for the players. That last 25-30 per cent of football fitness, you need to get that through football training. There’s no other way. That’s why, in the meantime, we have to be inventive and clever in what we do.”