Bolton Wanderers must avoid injuries at all costs during tour
WHEN Wanderers touch back down on English soil in eight days’ time, the only thing Dougie Freedman will be wishing for is a clean bill of health.
While three wins would be all well and good, if a little fanciful considering all three opponents are virtually ready to start their competitive season, avoiding any serious pre-season injuries takes precedence in most people’s eyes.
Wanderers have been stung severely in this way before. The effect of Chung-Yong Lee’s double leg fracture in a meaningless game against non-league Newport County three years ago was debilitating for Owen Coyle’s squad at the time, particularly when compounded a few days later by an equally severe break for Tyrone Mears after a training ground accident.
That set things off on a sour note for the former Wanderers boss – and set in motion a chain of bad luck from which he never recovered, slipping towards relegation from the top flight 10 months later.
Before that, players such as Sean Davis, Marcos Alonso and Tom Eaves have all suffered the disappointment of returning in fine form during the pre-season schedule only to suffer an injury that ruined the campaign ahead.
The same could be said of David Ngog and Jermaine Beckford last summer, as minor problems picked up in a truncated pre-season under Dougie Freedman meant they struggled to find top form and fitness for the start of the Championship.
Perhaps that dreadful early form was in Freedman’s mind as he planned a much more expansive pre-season schedule this time around, taking in three games abroad and a further five on their return.
Even the embryonic stages of pre-season training have been different to previous years, done entirely behind closed doors and – according to reports at Euxton – in smaller, more specific groups.
Head of sports science Mark Leather gave a general description last week to the club website.
“It was a two-day testing of players done internally at the club and one which is generally a follow-on from what they’ve done during the course of the close season,” he said.
“Since the season finished, we’ve brought a number of players in for sessions which are specifically tailored for them so the off-season has been more individualised this summer.
“This could depend on a number of factors such as injuries sustained, the number of games played throughout last season.
“We have a rough idea of where all the players are up to before they come back for pre-season training, and then we’ve had these two days which were split up into four or five little tests each day which allow us to be aware of the work each player needs to do to make sure they are ready for the season ahead.
“We feel it is also important to find out how each player works. It is not a psychology test, but simply a way of letting us know how the players learn best.
“Once we know, we can tailor their plan to suit them and therefore get the best out of them on the pitch.
“We’re big believers in using modern technology, but we like to combine that with the basics as football has been played in the same way for hundreds of years and we feel like we have a happy medium here at Bolton Wanderers.”
There are some who question the necessity of pre-season fixtures, particularly against lower grade opposition. But Wanderers leap straight into action against a side whose squad boasts some impressive players in Brondby tomorrow night.
The Danish club finished fourth last season and have invested heavily in their team, most notably up front where Wanderers’ club-record signing Johan Elmander has returned following his release at Galatasaray.
The Sweden international scored 22 goals in 58 appearances for Brondby between 2004 and 2006.
While their next two games against FC Vestjaelland and Mjallby AIF do not, on paper at least, provide as stern a test, the fact that both clubs are much further down the line in pre-season preparations should ensure two very competitive games.
That results do no matter is somewhat of a cliché in football these days but considering the problems Wanderers have had in recent years, to come back from Denmark and Sweden unscathed could be considered a minor victory in itself.