“It is not good enough to just be fit enough,” says Southampton’s Head of Sports Science Alek Gross as he explains that preparations for next season are already well under way for the players.
The 2018/19 campaign may not long be over, but despite the players leaving Staplewood for various locations around the world, they do so with tailored fitness plans to ensure they can hit the ground running on day one of Ralph Hasenhüttl's first full pre-season as Saints boss.
“It’s exciting because from our perspective there’s obviously a requirement for the players to be as physically fit as possible,” Gross began.
“We need the players to be as fit as they possibly can be to play with the intensity that the manager requires.
“Obviously, he has a clear blueprint in the way he wants to play and we have to support that with our programming to ensure the players are robust enough, fit enough and fast enough to deliver that.
“They’re on various, different plans dependent on international squads they’re in, when their fixtures and camps are and some of the players are away on holiday so we have to take all that into consideration.
“A lot of them will get a couple of weeks relative rest so they can take part in any active lifestyle things such as playing golf, going for walks and cycling before they start to ramp up the volume and intensity of the work they’re required to do.
“Those that are on international camps, we send their information to the relative staffs and we get reports back from them as well so that we can monitor what those players are doing.”
The importance of such a period cannot be underestimated. Not only will the programmes help the players to be ready to hit their peak quickly during pre-season, they help to lay the foundations for the entirety of the new campaign, as First Team Sports Scientist Bill Styles explains.
“Those initial weeks are really key for us both in terms of assessing where the players are at and putting the foundations in for the season.
“No two players come back in the same condition so we have to individualise as best as is possible within the demands of team sport.
“The initial weeks are about working with the manager and embedding his philosophy and also ensuring the players are starting to hit some good outputs early on in the pre-season campaign.”