Saturday 20 July 2013
The logistics of taking 32 players halfway across the world, providing for their every need and getting them match-ready for the Barclays Asia Trophy is no small feat for the backroom staff of the clubs involved, but Manchester City head physiotherapist Lee Nobes sees the forthcoming trip to East Asia as a "perfect opportunity" to prepare the players for the new season.
"Bags-wise, we have to take probably about 20, but we'll also have about five kit-skips and three smaller skips for boots"
Kit man Les Chapman
For most Barclays Premier League clubs the days of spending pre-season in Bournemouth or Ireland are a thing of the past. With marketing opportunities presenting themselves in Asia, Africa and America, the top-flight's finest players are travelling far and wide this summer to engage with their international supporters.
Fans in Hong Kong will soon get to witness three Barclays Premier League clubs in action as Man City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland compete with South China for the Barclays Asia Trophy, and for City kit man Les Chapman this means a lot of packing.
"Bags-wise, we have to take probably about 20, but we'll also have about five kit-skips and three smaller skips for boots, so it’s quite a package. There's the training kit, the boots, the match kit; but there's a lot of other stuff that you need to take such as the sweat-tops, rain jackets, tracksuit bottoms, compression shirts, a lot of little extras that fill all the bags – so there's a lot."
"We take everything. All the players need to take is their wash bags and their own clothes, whatever they'll need over there. We take everything else: leisure gear and travelling stuff, so they only really need to take a small bag really whereas we have plenty."
The biggest problem Chapman and his team will face in Hong Kong will be the high temperatures, which means constant trips to the laundry room. "Hong Kong will be fairly humid so we'll have to make sure that we've got enough stuff to change into. That would include leisure stuff as well.
"It's just constant work for really the whole six days because of the training sessions, the matches, getting the laundry done, picking the dirty kit up from the players rooms and the staff rooms, getting that all cleaned, taking it back to their rooms, so it's a constant turnover."
Head physio Lee Nobes agrees that the hot conditions, as well as jet lag will prove the most challenging aspects of the trip from his point of view. "You need to try to apply the research and scientific principles to aid recovery, look after their sleep patterns, try to advise the players on nutrition, what's best for them. And try to just make the players aware that we are going to help them as much as we possibly can. The players need to really try to listen to what we're saying to them and look after themselves as best as they can."
"I think we're working with a great bunch of players, very professional"
Lee Nobes, Head Physio
Despite the difficulties faced by the players Nobes says City's players are great professionals who are receptive to his advice. Indeed, with City away for almost three weeks, he welcomes the quality time he gets to spend with them.
"I think we're working with a great bunch of players, very professional," he says. "They look after themselves well. It used to be five or 10 years ago getting a handful, maybe more, overweight and high body fats, but it’s rare you get that now. Players tend to look after themselves coming into pre-season.
"Pre-season's an excellent time because although it's a long time where you're away – and this year we're away for 18 days – it's a perfect opportunity where you can get the players into a rhythm of what's right and that sets you up for the rest of the season.
"The training camp means they're up for breakfast, they'll be in the treatment room, you can take them down early before training, get their pre-training sessions in. You have lunch-time treatment sessions; if you've got afternoon training sessions again you can be working them in the gym; evening recovery sessions, treatment sessions. And that breeds sort of an ethos of how you take things forward into the season.
"We went on that excellent training camp in Austria last year; it was small, it was quiet, but the players were able to have a little bit of time to themselves. And it just bred a really good atmosphere among the players and staff, a really good work ethic that the players then took on to the season, which was great."
"We're lucky that the analysis that sports science guys do from the saliva, blood analysis, that you can really get deep into the player's passport"
Lee Nobes, Head Physio
The one setback to the Austria trip was the fact that the surroundings were so low key that they had to build their own gym out there. "We had to build our own specced-up gym, which was like a huge 50-60 metre marquee, and we got all the equipment that you would require in a gym. We shipped it all in with the help of some companies, so that was a massive project, as you can imagine from a cost and logistics point of view."
The facilities at Hong Kong, however, can be expected to be second to none and by the time City turn out for their semi-final encounter with Hong Kong champions South China on 24 July the players should be well on the way to being Barclays Premier League ready.
"We're lucky now the technology that we have with gps and heart rates and all the analysis that sports science guys do from the saliva, blood analysis that you can really get deep into the – we call it the player's passport – the player's profile to see where they're at, to see how they're reacting to training as well."
Modern technology is such that, wherever they are in the world, there is no escape for the players in terms of meeting the expected physical standards.
"We have all sorts of good hi-tech bits of kit that are portable so we take them away with us so we would chose the markers that we think are most appropriate and most important to give us the right information and, as I say, these bits of kit that give us the information are portable. So whilst it is more difficult because players get used to the environment they are in we are still able to provide that service wherever we are in the world."
City supporters can see their side in action in the Barclays Asia Trophy semi-final, when they take on South China at Hong Kong Stadium on 24 July. Three days later they will meet either Tottenham Hotspur or Sundrland at the same venue.
A limited number of tickets are still available for semi-finals day and can be bought here.