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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Wednesday, July 7th 2021

Interview: Pearson assesses his squad, new signings and injuries latest

Nigel Pearson has assessed his squad as the Robins’ preparations continue, ten days into their pre-season calendar.

Daily sessions of fitness and ball work have brought the players up to speed, following the summer break, with Pearson overseeing his coaching and fitness team’s demanding schedule.

Even though the first competitive ball won’t be kicked until August 7th, this is a pivotal stage with the chance for staff to get their messages across and set the tone for the gruelling campaign ahead – all in order to give the players the best chance of future success.

But as well as fitness and messaging, for the players it’s a real chance to impress and make their mark.

🎥 Watch: Nigel Pearson's pre-season update

Manager Pearson said: “Fitness-wise they’ve done very well. They came back in good condition so that always means we’re at a good starting point. I think the players will have found the sessions tough for them and around this time there will be signs of fatigue but that’s good.

“Pre-season is the main window of opportunity to get training adaptations in and they’ve embraced it. For those who are finding it difficult, or finding it difficult to commit to what we are trying to do, then they know what the outcome will be. It’s an opportunity for players to stake their claim."

Non-stop running: the first day back
Sam Bell back on the ball

Fitness and footwork

Behind-the-scenes footage from the first few days of pre-season - as explained by Head of Medical Performance Dave Rennie - showed the high demands which have been set: SDS tests (Single-Double-Single) running to check the players’ aerobic ability, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) tests to check variations between heartbeats and CMJ (Counter Movement Jump) tests to monitor power levels.

The players have also had the familiarity of balls back at their feet as part of their daily sessions at the Robins High Performance Centre.

“We try to combine it,” said Pearson. “We have a number of runs which are a test of fitness and character but they’re always devised so we can measure the players’ fitness. It’s always good to get plenty of touches of the ball but the players are fully aware of our expectations are and that’s we need to be fitter than we were last year.”

Matty James undergoes fitness tests

New recruits

He’s also working with a different-looking squad after a number of players left the club at the end of their contracts, while Pearson has since been reunited with former Leicester City teammates Andy King and Matty James – both Premier League winners from their time with the Foxes.

Young centre-back Rob Atkinson arrived from Oxford United and there’s excitement within the camp with new competitions for places.

Pearson continued: “It’s good to get a different feel about the place as well, additions come in and a number of players left. That in itself creates opportunities for others to make their move in the squad.

“It’s good to have a compact unit, I don’t want too many players floating around the place but the challenge there is to keep them fit. Without going over old ground, we know we had too many injuries last year and just because players have come back in good condition means we can ease off the intensity of training if we need to. When we get into the pre-season games the players will know they are then in competition with each other.”

He added both King and James have “brought in exactly what we hoped they would” adding the pair “bring experience, know-how and professional drive. When you watch them train, they’ll help enhance what we already have. We have a number of very talented young players but it’s difficult for them to find solutions on the pitch sometimes, and you’ve got experienced players alongside them so it’s about getting the blend right.

“Rob has come in and he’s a bit behind the rest of the squad fitness-wise but he’s a character and even in his few days training we’ve seen enough to suggest he’ll do exactly what we expect from him.

“To have Nathan Baker back as well is a real bonus and testament to him he was prepared to negotiate on lower terms which shows his personal commitment to what we’re trying to do. That was a pleasant surprise. Andi Weimann is in great condition as well, so all those things together feel like positive moves for us - so far, so good.”

Andi Weimann in pre-season training

Loughborough training camp

Next Wednesday (July 14th) will see the Robins face their first pre-season opponents when Celtic visit the HPC, before the squad then depart for a five-day training camp in Loughborough. Tomas Kalas and Nahki Wells will not be travelling with the squad due to their recent international commitments.

“It will be good because we’ll be in each other’s pockets and I don’t like long pre-season trips,” Pearson explained. “Do I enjoy them myself? It’s more observational time for me and honestly, I dislike pre-season as much as the players but it’s a necessity and an opportunity to work with the players, for the coaches to get their messages across, so it’s a pivotal part to most seasons!

“Bearing in mind I don’t think our players had a good enough pre-season last year, it’s important we get this right to give us the best chance of a successful season…it’s about peaking for when the season starts.”

Back for testing: Antoine Semenyo

Injury update

And as for when the new season campaign comes around – in just over four weeks’ time – Pearson hopes to have a near-fit squad.

Antoine Semenyo, Robbie Cundy and Louis Britton (all knee) are currently in rehabilitation, while there is encouraging news for midfielder Joe Williams who so far has had limited play time since he joined City a year ago due to respective injuries.

“They’re all making progress and will be available when Dave (Rennie) and his medical staff decide,” said Pearson. “What people have to remember is players don’t go from being injured to straight back in. There’s a management of players with a history of knocks or weaknesses within their bodies and we have to manage that over a long period of time.

“Joe hasn’t been with us but he will be fine for the start of the season, I’m sure. It’s important after a long-term spell out of the game that when he comes back in he stays, so he’s making great progress.

“We don’t see him as someone who we’ll have problems with and we’re looking forward to having him available. The important thing for us now is to try to avoid unnecessary injuries, so that’s where we have to manage the load in pre-season.

“You’ll always pick up injuries and knocks. I want our players to train like we play and that’s with high energy, so you can’t avoid contact injuries. If we pick up one or two up then fine, we’ll deal with it.

“We’re doing okay so far, 10 days in and the players have committed to it. For those who don’t that’s their choice, so we’ll see where we are when the season starts.”

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