As we enter the halfway point between the end of one football season and the start of another, teams from the Premier League to the Football League are readying themselves to start pre-season training. Spare a thought for Fulham, who are already playing their first competitive match in the Europa League on Thursday, but for the rest the hardest part of the season is just about to start. This is when the real hard work has to be put in and players have to get into shape for the new season ahead of them.
Preparation really is everything at this time of year. For some players who have struggled with injury in recent times they will be chomping at the bit to start playing again, but most footballers will be thinking that their holiday only just started before it came to an end. But there are no cutting corners in pre-season, as Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, once said “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” and that statement couldn’t be more apt in the world of football.
One team that needs more preparation than most is Ivory FC of the First Division of the Brentwood Sunday League in Essex. For the team at the centre of Nivea for Men’s Great Football Experiment, preparation isn’t something that they’ve done a lot of in the past; over-indulgence is more of their thing. However, the coaches are trying their best to turn them from no-hopers into world beaters. The transformation isn’t quite that dramatic for most professional clubs up and down the country, but there’s hardly any resemblance between a team at the start of pre-season with them at the end of the summer.
By the beginning of August, the players will be sick and tired of sprint drills and cross-country jogs, but it’s all for their own good in the long run. After all, nothing can be achieved without the correct preparation, and Premier League stalwarts Aston Villa still have their traditional motto ‘prepared’ in their crest on their shirt, something I’m sure new manager Alex McLeish will be emphasising to them as he tries to make his mark at Villa Park. The Scot might not want to take note of how the boys at Ivory FC prepare…
So, players are preparing for the new season ahead by getting fit, managers are preparing by finalising their transfer plans and looking at tactics and formations, and fans are looking at the fixture lists to see when the real crunch matches are. Players and managers, the latter in particular, will have their own routines that they’ll go through, and any time wasted will only come back to haunt them later in the season.