Whittingham makes the most of players’ help

Pompey boss Guy Whittingham at Five Lakes, Colchester
Pompey boss Guy Whittingham at Five Lakes, Colchester

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Guy Whittingham has had his work cut out this summer.

His appointment as permanent Pompey boss at the end of last season brought with it the usual trappings of a professional football manager.

A mass player recruitment drive and the negotiating of new contracts were accompanied by moves to formulate his new backroom staff and his side’s pre-season programme.

But at least he was afforded some help amid the positive Pompey chaos.

And it came from the unlikeliest of sources – the players themselves.

Back in the manager’s playing days, pre-season training meant one thing – hard work.

That’s still not changed as Whittingham approaches his first full campaign in charge of the Blues, with tomorrow’s final friendly against La Liga outfit Rayo Vallecano his side’s toughest pre-season challenge to date.

Yet in today’s modern game, players are returning for duty fitter than ever.

That’s allowed the Blues’ management structure to focus on other specific areas of their preparations ahead of the new season.

And Whittingham believes that’s benefited his group as the clock ticks down on next Saturday’s League Two opener against Oxford.

‘Pre-season has been pretty good,’ admitted Whittingham.

‘Some good planning went into it and I thought the trip to Five Lakes in Colchester was very good – we got a lot out of it.

‘I think players generally come back fitter now and that helps.

‘When they’re off I think they realise they need to keep that core fitness up.

‘Ten years ago, your time off was your time off because you knew you were coming back to be beasted.

‘But now that doesn’t happen.

‘Now I think the culture is you come back in some sort of shape, you’re toned up and the fitness is done that way. Yeah, they are still hard sessions. But they weren’t the sort of five-to-10-mile runs that used to be about.

‘Back then there were some hard ones but that was the same with every club.

‘So it’s just the way it is now.

‘Obviously, things have moved on.

‘It’s more specific and running patterns that you actually face on a football pitch, with stop, starting and turning.

‘You have to have that core fitness – that’s the reason why you did it then.

‘But I think people come back with a better core fitness now.’

With sports science methods adopted by more clubs over the years, studying players’ fitness levels has never been easier.

Pompey haven’t been left behind in this department, either.

And according to Whittingham, there’s no hiding place for any of his players as the final preparations are put in place for the start of the League Two campaign.

‘You’ve got the use of these heart-rate monitors now,’ admitted Whittingham.

‘We had them tested during the season and so we know what their (the players) heart rate is.

‘We can watch them as they train and see who’s not putting in what they should be.

‘Everything is governed.

‘You know the times when you want them between 50 and 75 per cent.

‘You know the times when you want them between 75 and 90 per cent.

‘And you know the times when you want them 90-plus.

‘That’s the good thing of having it there on the pitch side – you can look at it and see who’s doing it and who’s not.’