McDermott fighting fit ahead of pre-season
Back in business: Jobi McAnuff will be reunited with his Reading team-mates next week when they return from their summer breaks for pre-season training.
WHEN Brian McDermott was a player summers were a different proposition to what they are now.
You would lie on a beach for a fortnight, sup a few pints, pig out on whatever you liked and do everything you could to put as much distance between yourself and a gym as possible.
It was just the done thing. The close season was a time for rest and relaxation, a reward for nine or 10 months of hard slog over a season that took its toll on mind and body.
Fast forward to today and the approach modern-day players have to that period between May and July has changed beyond recognition. There will, of course, still be the occasional beer, sometimes the occasional beer too many. But the days when you could switch off completely for the best part of two months appear to be a thing of the past.
Now, the physical demands, the intensity and the sheer pressure of the game simply does not allow players to switch off and live life just like the rest of us.
It will come to a head next Thursday when the Reading players return for a series of scientific fitness tests before pre-season starts in earnest the following Monday morning. And, as McDermott explains, he is not expecting many to fall beneath the standards that have been set.
"The players are in for two days of testing with our sports scientist Carl Halabi at the end of next week then we will start the ball work straight away on Monday," he said.
"The only player missing from the squad will be Adam Federici who is has been at the World Cup with Australia, but everyone else is back. We need to make sure they are right when they come back so we test them on all sorts.
"When they left at the end of last season they were given a target to reach when they come back which doesn't give them much leeway. If they follow that programme they will be fine, and generally they do.
"Then we get the balls out as soon as possible because I'm sure the players are just itching to get going now, just like I am."
But McDermott confessed the rules were not so stringent in his playing career with Arsenal, Cardiff City, IFK Norrkoping, Oxford United, Huddersfield Town, Exeter City and Yeovil Town.
"It was different in my day," he explained. "You'd spend the first few weeks of pre-season just running around a park because players didn't look after themselves like they do now.
"You wouldn't really look after yourself that much for eight weeks of the summer which obvious took its toll.
"So it would take most players three or four weeks just to get anywhere near the fitness levels they should be at which means you waste valuable preparation time.
"But in this day and age players are different because football has changed so much. Nowadays they all take great pride in their fitness and when they come back they are in pretty good shape."
Presumably, then, there are harsh penalties for those players who may have indulged a little too much.
"It's very rare for that to happen here," insisted McDermott. "Almost all are up to speed when they come back.
"I'm not a great believer in fining players anyway. They've got their own professional pride at stake.
"I trust them to do the right thing so I haven't needed to speak to anyone really over the summer.
"I saw Brynjar Gunnarsson and Shane Long at Kevin Doyle's wedding in Ireland last week and Noel Hunt has been down the training ground because he's coming back from injury.
"But the main thing is we're all raring to go next week when training starts. I'm ready to get going now and I'm really looking forward to it.
"Things will move on quickly from here, I'm already planning for the friendlies and the buzz will soon be back."