Monday, September 08, 2008

Survival of the fittest

I read today that Fabio Capello didn't want to risk Emile Heskey (30) for the whole game against Andorra because that way he would be too tired to appear against Croatia four days later. This is in the same week that top class tennis players at the U.S. Open are expected to play a final just twenty-four hours after a semi-final. Anyone who's watched people like Nadal and Murray compete from close-up is amazed that they're still standing after the knock-up, let alone at the end of three, even four hours during which they're pushing themselves to a scary level of intensity. Why can't they use some of the tennis training methods on the footballers?

In the same weekend I have to say I was impressed to see 52-year-old Angus Deayton last a full forty-five minutes ploughing up and down the Wembley pitch during the Sport Aid England vs Rest Of The World match.


  1. Re. the tennis training regime, I can't think of many footballers who would accept that level of committment to achieve a high level of athletic ability. I expect they would see it as an intrusion into their busy lives.
    We know the ones that will do the work because they stand out rather than stand around.
    I was also impressed with Angus D; the game was very entertaining throughout. Some of the play was much better than the real thing a couple of days earlier.

  2. And yet even now Lampard will earn more than Federer over the period of his contract. I have fallen out of touch with football (or rather its millionaires have moved away from me) and can't be bothered with it anymore. Give me cycling any day - that is an exciting sport and I bet Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins are on a pittance for the same commitment as any footballer you can suggest.

  3. I think this is symptomatic of the general "looking after" that footballers receive from their employers and the wider world. Tell a player he is tired and he'll believe it.

  4. Football clubs probably invest more in sports science than any other sport and I am sure they have looked at tennis.

    There are some big differences. Firstly, tennis isn't a contact sport, so you don't have the knocks you pick up in football and you can replicate the match situation more closely in training. Secondly, if you had all the footballers sit down and have a rest every five minutes, you might see a greater level of intensity. I'm not knocking tennis, I just don't think you can compare the two.

  5. Who hasn't always wanted to hear the phrase "...and there's Jaap Stam, being knocked off the ball in a shoulder charge with Craig David..."?

  6. Andy Murray proved to his cost last night that a good rest between matches is a handy thing. Federer was always going to win, but with two days' extra recuperation compared to Murray his chances became even greater.

  7. When you hear stuff like this you can't help thinking there's scope for improvement in footballers' fitness. There must be (though I'm sure most players could work harder in matches as it is) but I can't believe Heskey would feel he couldn't play both 90 minutes. Four days is ages to recover from something you do all the time. Is it the benefit of having a manager who played when footballers' fitness was a joke to people in other sports? Or perhaps Capello is saying no excuses come Wednesday.

    Football being a team sport and tennis an individual one is an important difference I think. Individual sports are unambiguous, you'll get out no more than you put in. The incentive to train hard is clear. That must count for a lot when it comes to the kind of training you need to do to improve on already good fitness.

    Both sports seem to require power and endurance. The more powerfully built you are the more you're going to dislike training for endurance and I would guess that's where footballers are lacking. I just can't see them regularly clocking up miles and miles of running or cycling (boring in a gym) or doing horrible running sessions with the intensity that a tennis player looking for an edge might. I can't imagine a club making players do killer sessions regularly (not just in pre-season). And I doubt any footballer would do them by choice. Perhaps clubs should reward such training with houses or boats or something. Or start recruiting from other sports.