Fitness: The Secret To Reading's Success

Last updated : 03 July 2003 By Rob Cooper
When Sammy Igoe blasted Reading, suggesting they were 'too professional' many labelled him as bitter having been rejected by Alan Pardew.

How can a club be too professional? They can't. It's just Reading are more professional than 90% of the First Division, so in that sense, perhaps Igoe had reason to brand the Royals 'too professional'.

This professionalism has led to improved performances on the field, and the Play-Off place of last season that few would have predicted. In stark contrast, Tommy Burns' team of 1999-2000 were more likely to be labelled a 'pub team' than 'model pros'.

If we are to repeat last season's Play-Off trick then standards must not slip. Alan Pardew has a responsibility to ensure that they don't.

Engrained in this upmost professionalism that seems to exist at Reading Football Club is the importance of high levels of fitness, enabling players to perform that little bit better.

Last season you could count the number of serious injuries we had on one hand. Sure, Bas Savage missed the campaign due to a snapped cruciate ligament, and Joe Gamble was also out for long periods, but other than that we had very few injury worries at all.

The empty treatment room was a testament to the work of physio Jon Fearn and former PE teacher, now Sports Scientist, Niall Clark. The fitness routines that the pair have dreamt up have enabled the Royals to avoid a succession of injuries that would have hampered the teams chances.

By having an almost complete pool of players available at all times Alan Pardew's job has been made much easier. Not only has this full compliment of stars been at Pardew's disposal, but these players have all been super-fit.

Levels of fitness higher than those of the opposition enabled us to really dig in in the second half of games last year and pull something out of the bag. That was not so much because we were the better side but because our players were able to play high quality football throughout the ninety minutes. Nottingham Forest at home, Bradford away, Sheffield United away anyone?

So, if this coming season the Royals are to maintain those hugely-high standards they have set themselves, they must be sure to ensure that complacency does not set in.

As soon as the players fail to avoid the forbidden unhealthy foods, as soon as they start going to bed late, as soon as they begin only to go through the motions in training they will perform like the rest of the sides in the Division, and the dream of Premiership Football will fad again.

With the team beginning pre-season training on Monday, following fitness tests this week, lets hope Alan Pardew can ensure that the determination to go the extra mile continues to exist.