The Championship hasn't had the best of luck with swine flu this season has it? First we heard about QPR, then Doncaster Rovers and now Sheffield Wednesday appear to be been struck down with an epidemic too.
In a way it's fortunate that the virus hasn't affected clubs a bit lower down the food chain as they just wouldn't be able to cope with seven or eight absentees like Brian Laws did. It must have been tough for Wednesday but at least they could still field a decent team at Bristol City thanks to their big squad.
Luckily swine flu wasn't around when I was playing as I'd have hated to miss matches with it. I know I shouldn't have, but there were many occasions during my career when I played with the flu or some kind of virus. I didn't always do myself justice probably but I just thought it was a bit soft to cry off with a bug. Swine flu does seem a different kettle of fish though!
Football clubs are ultra-cautious when it comes to health issues, as the environment is prone to the spread of viruses. Players are told not to even bother driving to training if they feel rotten nowadays. Instead they'll be asked to visit the club doctor at his surgery or perhaps the doctor will even make a home visit. For Sheffield Wednesday to have had to cancel a day's training, the situation must have been pretty severe.
One squad that looks set to receive extra training and not less this week is Derby County, who if reports are to be believed will be working from 'dawn till dusk' until they show signs of improvement.
I'm sure Derby County's players won't be thrilled at the prospect of long days spent at the training ground but they won't be the last to be asked to do a bit extra this season. When results aren't going your way, managers need to find reasons and work out a way to change things. They also need to send a message to their players that what they are doing just isn't good enough.
Often that means extra training and players usually accept this willingly from my experience. Initially you may think that a higher workload could backfire, with players experiencing greater fatigue but physical work isn't the only aspect Nigel Clough or other managers in his position will have planned. A few extra sessions working on technical ability, set pieces and team patterns allied with video sessions won't tire players out unduly and they should be beneficial.
I remember going through a bad patch with Charlton and we were told that days off had been cancelled until further notice! That was a big enough incentive for us to turn things around, so I'm sure this as much a psychological ploy as a tactical one.
Training at Championship level, or any level really, is a very individual thing in my view. Some footballers thrive on lots of it, others on very little. When I was at Ipswich Town under George Burley the over-30s (and those that had played a lot) were given a day off while the younger players came in and worked on their game. It wasn't punishment, just a way of using the time to improve players.
Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose couldn't get enough of training. They'd be out on the pitch at 9am smashing shots into the net, and after training they'd stay on with a bag of balls doing even more work. Often George Burley had to literally drag the pair of them inside screaming that they needed to rest!
Footballers get a tough time from some people for their short working days but when asked, and if needed, you won't find too many professionals complaining at putting in a few extra hours on the training pitch.
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1. From a Bluebird fan:
Matt - so who do you think in your personal opininon are favs to go up?? And who do you think are the play-off teams? Be nice to know what are your choices.