Survival of the fittest for Canaries

The age-old rivalry between Norwich City and Ipswich Town could come down to the survival of the fittest next season - with both clubs bidding to steal a march on their Championship rivals.

The age-old rivalry between Norwich City and Ipswich Town could come down to the survival of the fittest next season - with both clubs bidding to steal a march on their Championship rivals.

Town boss Jim Magilton has ordered his players back into training next week, at least a fortnight earlier than usual.

But Colney training centre has already been reverberating to the sound of the treadmill with the Canaries' entire professional squad called in for fitness tests halfway through their summer break.

While Magilton's men will be training three days a week for the next three weeks, City players have been working on a 10-page fitness programme handed out by sports scientist Dave Carolan.

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And just to make sure they are sticking to their schedule, Peter Grant's men are reporting to Carolan for midsummer checks.

He said: “We have taken the decision this year to bring in the players in the middle of the close season break to check how they're progressing with their off-season conditioning. The aim is to be one step ahead when they come back in July for pre-season training.

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“In the past we've tended to do this on a bespoke basis for certain players. But this time we're doing everybody, so everybody's treated the same.

“They're all tested from the newest professionals such as Patrick Bexfield and Steven Arnold right up to Dion Dublin - everybody's got to come in.

“We've been a little bit flexible to allow for half-term and family holidays so we've had half of them in on Monday, and the other half will be here next Monday.

“Peter wants to know his players are in the best shape and from the results it seems they are doing as they are told.

“They've been doing running, weights, circuits, flexibility, core fitness work - we can't allow anyone to fall behind if we are to avoid any unnecessary injuries.”

Each player is given a heart rate monitor and assessed through a blood lactate test.

“We read the monitors and it all has to be recorded. We download the information on the watches and it records the details of every single session, so we know they have been doing the work.”

The summer programme would allow more time to concentrate on football when the squad resumed training, said Carolan.

“We can give the manager all but the icing on the cake. They will be able to top up their fitness but do more team work and tactical stuff, so you don't have to sacrifice that side of things.”

New signings may not be at the same level of fitness, Carolan admitted, and had to be brought up to speed.

He said: “You may get someone from another club where the emphasis on fitness is not quite as high. It's a double-edged sword when you bring in players because their skill may improve you as a team but they may not be at the same fitness levels, so it needs to be taken into account.”

While City report back for further tests on Tuesday, July 3, and start full training later the same week, Ipswich are back next Tuesday and start off on a three-day week, but the whole squad will have a week off in July.

Magilton said: “I am sure there will be a few moans and groans, and if I'd still been a player here I probably would have been one of the ones moaning! But the switch is designed to ease players back into training. My plan is to do three days training, four days off for the first three weeks and then take it from there.”

Skipper Adam Drury was among those tested at Colney in City's first group.

He said: “Dave's given us a programme for the summer and we're doing a halfway check to make sure people are doing the work and that lads who have been injured have been rehabilitating so we know where everyone's at.

“It's staggered because some lads are away at the moment but everyone's got to do it. No one can get away with it, which is good. That way, when we come back, it's not all about long runs and plodding round the training ground. We can get straight into ball work and do some proper stuff because everyone's already fit.

“We've done a bit of everything - long-distance runs, shorter stuff, fast stuff, weights. Dave puts it all down and because we wear heart rate monitors you have to do it. If you don't there are big fines. So there's no cheating.

“It's not like the old days where you may have come back a stone overweight. It's good but hard.

“Although he wants everyone to work hard, you've got to get your rest in as well because it's been a long, hard season. If it's someone like me who's had a lot of injuries during the season, you need your body to recover, so you've got to find a happy medium between the two.”

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