Our summer training is well under way and preparations for the long season ahead are already moving at full pace.
We took the opportunity to catch up with Liam Walker who has had is fingers in pretty much everything that has gone on so far.
Walker joined the club 2 years ago as the joint Development Team manager with Phil Parker but spent the entirety of last season helping out Matty Pike with the 1st team during what was a very difficult and disappointing season for the club.
“Things went wrong from the outset. Pre season last year was possibly the worst I’ve been involved in during my time in football. We came back far too late and by the time we were training, anyone who was committed to playing football week in, week out had already found a club and was training and playing friendlies. Myself and Matty have been banging on the drum all season and thankfully the committee have acknowledged that and have been incredibly understanding. Needless to say, we are making sure that we don’t miss the boat this year”.
Things have been happening quickly and it seems like the players haven’t had much of a break but the club is 2 weeks into preparations already and other clubs in the division are yet to return.
“Football can learn a lot from other sports” said Walker. “I’m a massive fan of professional cycling where it’s all about marginal gains. When team sky came along, they questioned the logic of the conventional wisdom and tradition of having a break over the winter and decided to train and ride right the way through and we know how that worked out for them. Players at this level play once a week and train a maximum of 2 days. They don’t need a long rest to recover, most people spend more time in the gym each week than your average Hellenic League player plays football. We haven’t really had a break. We played in the Chesterton tournament at the end of last season where we surprised a few people, and then we were back full steam ahead 4 weeks after that. It’s evident in our players not having lost much of their base fitness nor their focus and sharpness”.
The club held its first ever open training session two weeks ago and attracted 7 new players with another 6 coming the week after. “These are new players to the club and I’ve been impressed with the standard of player we’ve attracted. These are the same players who went elsewhere last season. But we are already playing football at Woodstock and players like that. These are the type of player we want, that love football and just want to play. You need to have that drive if you want to do well” Walker commented. “I’m not sure if word got around but I’ve seen other clubs now trying the same approach. I’m glad we thought of it first”.
We asked Liam what he thought the priorities were for the pre season programme. There was one thing above all that stood out!
“Fitness. It’s all about fitness and conditioning. Being in the right physical shape first and foremost. We might not be able to have most talented players at our disposal but we will make sure that we have some of the fittest and beat prepared. I met with Matty and the committee a few weeks back and this was our brief. Get the fittest side we can muster. If we are battling to get something from the last 10 minutes of a game, I want players that will still be able to out run, out muscle and out compete the opposition. I want players who can play for 100 minutes, not just the 90, players who have something extra in the tank. Pre season will be hard work, but the players will get out what they put in. With what we do in training and the fitness that only come from playing pre season games, we will be ready and we will be fit”
But Walker is quick to point out that fitness is not the only consideration. “We can do something with fitness in the time we get to work with the players but they need to take a level of accountability. That’s where mindset and attitude come in. Players need to be focused and goal orientated. These goals need to be in sync with the club. They need to want to win, they need to want to get better and they need to want success. Part of that is doing the right things outside of football, going for runs, to the gym, being mentally and physically prepared and above all, being open to new ideas. I want the players to look at me and roll their eyes when I ask them to do certain things. We don’t expect them to understand, but we do expect them to get on with it. They will feel the benefits come August when we start playing for real. We would like to think that people at other clubs look at what we are trying to do and snigger, we know that some already have. But we are confident that we are doing the right thing and it’s flattering that others are trying to follow suit”
Training continues every Tuesday and Thursday from now until the start of the season.