These are the hurdles City face to get back on the pitch
The Canaries’ season is on hold until April 30. But even that looks optimistic given the spread of coronavirus. The club’s former sports science chief, Dave Carolan, spoke to Paddy Davitt to try and provide some insight.
Coronavirus is changing our whole society. Is it any wonder football should not be immune?
The challenge for City’s current head of performance, Chris Domogalla, and his team is to ensure Daniel Farke’s squad are ready for the final Premier League and FA Cup push. However long that might be.
That requires a level of planning for Carolan unlike any other seen in professional sport.
The Irishman, who more recently worked with Gary Rowett at Stoke, Derby, Birmingham and now Millwall, is carrying out his own impact assessments for global company EDGE10 Group.
“We have run a number of models to see if the league potentially asks you to muster your resources to play a high number of games in a short period of time,” he said. “We looked at what if the league asks you to play every three days?
“You have to assume the league will not allow crowds, there will be limited staff, you don’t have to worry about ticketing or scheduling or the time of day the games are played.
“You could play any time of day, in theory, under those circumstances but how do you get there because other transport might not be available, hotels won’t be available, cooking at these places won’t be available?
“If we are supposed to be social distancing you can’t all be on a coach so how do you physically get players to a game? Do you travel in cars and how do you do that without risking them being more susceptible to the virus?
“We know the league is going to start at some point but beyond that there are so many variables.”
The likes of Teemu Pukki and Timm Klose should benefit from an extended break but Carolan cautions there is also a downside to inactivity.
“On the flip side, a lot of players had built up match fitness over 28 or 30 games will have lost the benefit of that,” he said. “So it is a double edged sword.
“There is certainly a benefit in not just injured players but those who had played an awful lot of games now get a breather. But you counter-balance that with some might have lost that hardness or robustness because it resets for everyone.
“If this becomes a really long break clubs should look at other sports to model on.
“We work with some Aussie Rules teams and they have a 12 week pre-season. Look at what they do in terms of breaking up a training plan into a physical conditioning phase, with a limited technical/tactical aspect, and then it flips around after they build early fitness.
“That allows you to keep your players fit and fresh because Norwich have nine league games left and they can’t afford to drop points.
“But there is something else in play which I haven’t seen discussed.
“Is the order of the fixtures going to be the same? Do you restart with the Southampton game or Arsenal or someone else? That has a huge effect on the competitive advantage.”
Carolan believes there will have to be practice matches ahead of any resumption.
“I would suggest this is like returning in pre-season, the one thing you don’t want to lose is that match fitness,” he said. “The players will have accrued a level of conditioning from simply playing games over the season.
“The simplest way to do that is through internal games. Saturdays are not just the 90 minutes but add in the warm ups and you are looking at more like two and a half hours of physical effort.
“Having time off now allows a period of preparation when and if you get the go ahead to restart. Then you are trying to maintain as much continuity as possible.
“But right now nearly every training ground I have heard of has gone to skeleton staff to limit that contact. So trying to retain that sense of normality in terms of training is an on going challenge.”
Carolan does not share the view football’s powerbrokers were too slow to react to the pandemic.
“You have to balance a number of things,” he said. “What is the government advice? If the government was not advising social distancing at the early stage it is hard for sporting organisations to go against that advice.
“The powers-that-be were saying something different.
“But the football authorities do have a duty of care not only to the fans but the players and coaches who are involved in the game. What we don’t know yet is the long term health implications.
“If you have athletes who have contracted it and develop really bad, longer lasting conditions you would have to say that should always be the number one priority.
“It is not an easy decision because of the effect on people but also the economics. But people should always come first.”