THE return to pre-season used to be feared by professional footballers.
Running off summer’s excesses until they were sick was once the way.
But thankfully modern sports science and a preference for more technique and ball work means the drill sergeant is becoming a thing of the past.
Meticulous planner Eddie Howe has long since had his pre-season programme laid out, and when his squad return to Gawthorpe on Thursday, while they will certainly be put through their paces, he hopes it will be with more of a smile on their faces.
Howe was not a fan of the old-school pre-season, and would rather have his players in football boots than running shoes.
He said: “The work has started for pre-season, we’ve been organised quite a while now, we’re well prepared.
“It really is a case of getting the squad settled and hopefully getting a few recruits in before it starts - it’s a good chance to work on and with the players.
“I would like to think we’re forward thinking in terms of our pre-season, things have changed in the game, even since I was playing.
“It’s a lot more controlled now, players aren’t flogged to death, we’re very careful with the players.
“The balance between working the players hard and not breaking them.
“Jon Dalzell, the conditioning coach, is top of his field and will be a huge help.
“I hated pre-season, but it was the nature of the training that we ran until we dropped.
“Thankfully things have changed, we get the footballs out straight away and that makes a huge difference to the mentality of players.
“They enjoy working with the ball.
“Players like to keep fit and play the game they love - it can’t be bad!”
Howe is looking to bring in some new faces ahead of the players’ return, but he doesn’t expect a glut of trialists with league experience.
As with the likes of Louis-Rae Beadle, who featured in a number of reserve team games at the end of last season, any trialists are likely to be youngsters: “There will probably be a few trialists in, but probably younger lads - 18, 19, 20-year-olds.
“I imagine we won’t be taking experienced players on trial - more development squad players.”
Meanwhile, Howe has sanctioned a new indoor training facility at the club’s vacant leisure centre.
The Clarets boss has already given his approval to plans to upgrade the club’s Gawthorpe training ground this summer.
And Howe is also pushing through summer plans for the leisure centre at Turf Moor to be transformed into a bespoke elite gymnasium and 3G training surface in the existing sports hall that will benefit all ages, from under eights in the Centre of Excellence right through to the first team squad.
Howe said: “We are pleased that behind the scenes the facilities are taking shape.
“My first impression, since coming in, is that the facilities needed a little bit of love.
“I have been fortunate enough that the board have been supportive in that quest and Doug Metcalfe, the stadium manager, has also been very helpful.
“Having a new gymnasium will be massive for us because we didn’t have that luxury last year
“It is something we are firm believers in and I think it will improve the players’ performance, so that’s been a big reason behind that push.
“It will be used by everybody, not just the first team but also the development squad and youth team and Centre of Excellence, so it’s a real feather in the cap for everyone.”