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9th July 2018

Older supporters will remember the 'Good old days' when players reported back after their summer break anything up to a couple of stone overweight, the average boosted by the likes of Alan Foggon.

Pre-season was spent shedding those excesses and the beach at Redcar and Eston Hills saw some stamina sapping runs to merely get the players back into some sort of shape before the season started.

Those days are a thing of the past; professionalism and the advent of sports psychology alongside individual training programmes mean that players report back already in very good shape.

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In my day the referees were told to have a two week break to rest and recharge the batteries but then we all had training schedules to follow during the close season to ensure gradual build up to maximum fitness for the start of the new campaign.

The dreaded 'bleep test' was waiting upon our return and that helped ensure that everyone stayed sharp during the summer. It is exactly the same for the players and anyone who has ever played under Tony Pulis's management is fully aware of the fact that pre-season will be very difficult.

It's not all about fitness though and Pulis, having taken over mid-season, will be looking for much more from the players at the club than merely physical improvement. The lung busting double training sessions in Austria including dawn mountain bike rides will help him fully understand the attitudes and mentalities of his players as much as prepare them for possible career changes as candidates for future Tour de France events. It will have shown him exactly what characters he possesses at the club, it may have changed his views of players that he inherited when he took over after the festive fixtures.

Team building and togetherness is vital under Pulis; he is unforgiving in the pursuit of excellence to maintain the ability to see games out with high intensity performances throughout the long energy sapping Championship campaign. The work done in July will reap its rewards over the arduous 46 match campaign.

Ironically the increased fitness levels may end up helping the opposition, if as expected some players leave the club and end up at Championship rivals, but with new signings Flint and McNair part of the set up from an early stage that bonus far outweighs some players benefitting from our training camp and then leaving. The fact is that the players who do move will in the main be players that Pulis does not see as part of his plans for the future.

Within the game, Tony Pulis enjoys a brilliant reputation from those who have worked with him and played for him, the muscles might be aching after the Austria trip but the players who will be part of the squad will know that they have benefitted from the extreme regime and will have jelled as a team as a result. Boro fans can look forward to the team being as strong at the end of games as they are at the beginning.

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