Author Topic: Fit for purpose  (Read 1856 times)

Offline David

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4229
    • View Profile
Fit for purpose
« on: June 12, 2007, 03:02:51 PM »
England’s women are in great shape to excel at September’s World Cup as the squad becomes ever more professional

Jonathan Northcroft

And then there was one. The England captain has dropped out and so, too, the squad’s most capped player. Its two star strikers have also gone; all four are bent double, gulping breaths. The legendary Kelly Smith, royalty of the women’s game, had worn an iPod to try and blot the pain and she is the second last to admit defeat. Now only Casey Stoney is left and the Charlton captain, an instructor in a gym, is putting her training to good effect. “Come on Case!” shout the other players, gathering round. Once again she beats the bleep. The grimace turns to a smile: 13, a new personal record.

We are at Harrow public school, which launched David Elleray’s refereeing career and is now one of the places being used as a springboard by England for September’s women’s World Cup in China. Eight of Hope Powell’s squad are undergoing the infamous “bleep test”, an examination of stamina beloved by coaches of football sides – men’s and women’s – down the ages. If Stoney takes the honours, the condition of the other players proves pleasing to Dawn Scott, the England physio. “The progress of these girls in recent years has been massive – they’re not just footballers, they’ve got the bodies of athletes now,” she says. “But we face a challenge for the World Cup. Other nations have been in camps since January – China, Canada, Brazil, USA – and two of our group opponents, Germany and Argentina.”

Still, given Sven-Göran Eriksson had only four weeks with his squad before last year’s men’s World Cup in Germany – and had to fight the fixture schedulers to secure that long – by the time Stoney, Smith and Co leave for their final training camp in Macau on August 19 they will be one of the best-prepared football squads of any sort to depart English shores for international competition. The Harrow session was the third in their build-up to the competition and the beginning of serious work. For these players the summer break is already over, having lasted just a fortnight, and five weeks of preseason training lie ahead. Scott has tailored programmes for each individual player but all will train five days a week and do a double session on at least one of those days.

The bleep test involves making a number of 20m shuttle runs within a minute, in ever-increasing amounts: Stoney has got up to 13 within a minute, with the rest of the squad dropping out between eight and 12. Cardio-monitors are attached to each player, so Scott can see that players are working hard enough – woe betide anybody dropping out before their maximum heart rate has been achieved. The London-based players will gather here again for further testing next month, while the rest will be examined by Scott in regional centres.

Earlier, they convened at a nearby hospital for blood and nutrition checks and a range of other physical exercises, including jump tests and power tests using weights. Rachel Yankey was among those able to lift 80kg – considerably more than her body weight.

In the gymnasium at Harrow, Mary Phillip is among the top bleep test performers – a cause for satisfaction given that at 30 the Arsenal defender is the squad’s second-oldest player. She is the only one who figured in England’s last, and only previous, World Cup appearance in 1995. “In ’95 I was a YTS at Millwall and got called into the squad by surprise. I prepared for the tournament by trying to fit in some extra training after work in Greenwich Park, running up and down hills and doing laps of the park. Now we’re given detailed training programmes to follow and tests every five to six weeks to see we’re building towards a peak. We get blood tests, cardio tests, nutritional advice – you name it,” she says.

“Twelve years ago I’d never heard of a VO2 test or had my blood examined – although at club level the old bleep test was around. With England the girls did a 12-minute run for their testing – a 12-minute run nowadays is like a warm-up for us. I’m a totally different athlete these days, even though I’ve got to fit training around taking the kids to and from school. For all of us it’s a big change around.”

Preparation is just one of the ways in which women’s football in England has metamorphosed in recent years. In May, 24,529 watched Arsenal beat Charlton in the FA Cup final in Nottingham, a bigger attendance than in two Premiership matches that weekend and almost double the previous record for a women’s club game in England, when 13,824 watched the 2001 final between Arsenal and Fulham.

Yankey played in both games (for Fulham in 2001, Arsenal in 2007) and in the 2002 final when Fulham defeated Doncaster. A few days after that match she was stopped near her West London home by a man walking his dog. “It was the first time I’d ever been recognised,” she remembers. “He said, ‘I know you, you’re the girl who plays football. You scored a great free kick’. I was, like, ‘Thanks’. He said, ‘But one thing I don’t understand is why do you only play one game a season?’”

A crowd of 29,092, a European record for any women’s game, was there when England beat Finland in the opening game of Euro 2005 at the City of Manchester stadium. “That tournament was massive for women’s football in England,” says Yankey. “We’d been told the City of Manchester was a near sell-out and we didn’t believe it, we thought there’d be 10,000 there at most, and I’ll never forget going on the team bus, turning the corner and seeing all these people, not just women and children but groups of guys waving flags. Without being rude it was like going to a man’s game. You saw people outside the ground with your name on the back of their shirt and it was ‘Woah, what’s going on?’”

Smith’s face is now widely recognisable through appearances as a television summariser. Yankey has an MBE, sponsorship contracts and her own soccer school. None of this seemed possible when she started playing as an eight-year-old, on South Kilburn’s Marion estate. “My mum supported me but thought football was a phase I was going through. I joined a boys’ team with two boys from across the road and it was great.

“In training I got treated no differently to anyone else, although in matches I had to pretend I was a boy and called myself ‘Ray’. Then we got to a cup final and someone on the other side recognised me, and I was told I couldn’t play any more because I was a girl.

“I got introduced to a coach who ran a girls’ team in Mill Hill. I remember getting a lift to training, stepping out of the car, and seeing this field where hundreds of girls were playing football. I was thinking, ‘What’s going on?’ I’d thought I was a bit of a weirdo, the only girl who played. I didn’t even know there was an Arsenal women’s side, let alone an England team.”

Despite their advances, England still have some distance to travel to catch up with the power-houses of the women’s game and go to China as outsiders. Being drawn with Germany and Argentina in televised matches, however, gives them a chance of capturing further the public’s imagination. The Germans are World Cup holders and won the past four European championships, but England held them 0-0 in a recent friendly. “In the past they played against us to get their goal average up but we worked really hard as a team and that match proved we could get a result against them,” Yankey says.

For nonbelievers she has a message. “Support will only truly change when people stop seeing our game as the same as the men’s game. People say ‘football’s football’ but you’ve got to realise men’s football will be quicker than women’s because men are quicker than women. It will be more powerful because men have got a different build. In tennis, everyone’s accepted the women’s game is totally different to men’s but can be enjoyed for different reasons. People need to see football in the same way.

“It’s a bit of a trap. To get better, you need to pay the players. To pay the players, you need people to come and watch. To get people to come and watch, the players have to be better. So what are you going to do?”

See the sweat. Feel the burn. Hear the bleeps. Whatever might be the answer to Yankey’s poser, with these women the question is not a lack of professionalism or effort.

Orient express: England ready for China challenge

- England have a hectic schedule before their first World Cup group match on September 11. From July 9-13 they will undergo mental and physical preparation at Bisham Abbey and are scheduled to fly out to Macau on August 19 for intensive training at the British Olympic Association’s facility. They could leave England earlier if negotiations with China about a pretournament friendly in Shanghai bear fruit. Discussions are also in progress to arrange two further friendlies in Macau – against a Hong Kong XI and Canada. From Macau England fly to Shanghai on September 3, a week before the tournament begins

Group A Germany v Argentina Sept 10, Shanghai Japan v England Sept 11, Shanghai Argentina v Japan Sept 14, Shanghai England v Germany Sept 14, Shanghai Germany v Japan Sept 18, Hangzhou England v Argentina Sept 18, Chengdu

Group B USA v N Korea Sept 11, Chengdu Nigeria v Sweden Sept 11, Chengdu Sweden v USA Sept 14, Chengdu N Korea v Nigeria Sept 14, Chengdu Nigeria v USA Sept 18, Shanghai N Korea v Sweden Sept 18, Tianjin

Group C Ghana v Australia Sept 12, Hangzhou Norway v Canada Sept 12, Hangzhou Canada v Ghana Sept 15, Hangzhou Australia v Norway Sept 15, Hangzhou Norway v Ghana Sept 19, Shanghai Australia v Canada Sept 19, Chengdu

Group D N Zealand v Brazil Sept 12, Wuhan China v Denmark Sept 12, Wuhan Denmark v N Zealand Sept 15, Wuhan Brazil v China Sept 15, Wuhan China v N Zealand Sept 19, Tianjin Brazil v Denmark Sept 19, Hangzhou

Quarterfinals 1 winners A v 2nd B Sept 22, Wuhan 2 winners B v 2nd A Sept 22, Tianjin 3 winners C v 2nd D Sept 23, Wuhan 4 winners D v 2nd C Sept 23, Tianjin

Semifinals Winner QF 1 v winner QF 3 Sept 26, Tianjin Winner QF 2 v winner QF 4 Sept 27, Hangzhou

Final and third-place playoff Sept 30, Shanghai

Previous tournaments USA 2003 Winner: Germany, above Runners-up: Sweden USA 1999 Winner: USA. Runners-up: China Sweden 1995 Winner: Norway. Runners-up: Germany China 1991 Winner: USA. Runners-up: Norway

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article1909850.ece

Offline BillyBoy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1621
    • View Profile
Re: Fit for purpose
« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2007, 05:39:19 PM »
There are some interesting things in here.

Other nations have been in camps since January – China, Canada, Brazil, USA – and two of our group opponents, Germany and Argentina.”

This just underlines that we are likely to be less well prepared than other teams. Norway has also been providing support to their players, since early in the year, to enable them to train more.

Despite their advances, England still have some distance to travel to catch up with the power-houses of the women’s game and go to China as outsiders. Being drawn with Germany and Argentina in televised matches, however, gives them a chance of capturing further the public’s imagination.

Does that mean the game against Japan is not televised or that it just will not capture the imagination like the other two?

For nonbelievers she has a message. “Support will only truly change when people stop seeing our game as the same as the men’s game. People say ‘football’s football’ but you’ve got to realise men’s football will be quicker than women’s because men are quicker than women. It will be more powerful because men have got a different build. In tennis, everyone’s accepted the women’s game is totally different to men’s but can be enjoyed for different reasons. People need to see football in the same way.

“It’s a bit of a trap. To get better, you need to pay the players. To pay the players, you need people to come and watch. To get people to come and watch, the players have to be better. So what are you going to do?”

For what it is worth, I don't disagree with her. I would say though that unlike tennis or even athletics for example. Women's football will always be in direct competition with the men's game in trying to attract spectators from a limited pool. When you see something like the WUSA, a professional league, folding in maybe the most commercialised nation on the planet, on the back of the success of the US national team. It just underlines the fact that women's football faces enormous challenges in making itself a viable paying spectator sport.

Offline redrobin

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3828
    • View Profile
Re: Fit for purpose
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2007, 11:28:38 PM »
There are some interesting things in here.

Other nations have been in camps since January – China, Canada, Brazil, USA – and two of our group opponents, Germany and Argentina.”

This just underlines that we are likely to be less well prepared than other teams. Norway has also been providing support to their players, since early in the year, to enable them to train more.


Just imagine:-

No Arsenal winning run
Cup Finals with all the top players missing.
Club fans don't get to see their best players for most of the season.

No way, thanks.  OK I'm sure we can learn from the top countries in the world, but I don't reckon that's the way to go. The players do need to be supported more, both financially and in their training regimes, but we need to find an English solution to the problem. Just to mimic the Americans who have a completely different culture to their sports with their franchises, player drafts, NCAA rules/vetos, uncompetitive league structures isn't the way forward.


 

shlj

  • Guest
Re: Fit for purpose
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2007, 08:49:27 PM »
It would be a great leveller and would give a chance for most team to have a go at the premier league  ;D
bad idea obviously

Offline Dr Gonzo

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4031
    • View Profile
Re: Fit for purpose
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2007, 10:48:48 AM »
It would be a great leveller and would give a chance for most team to have a go at the premier league  ;D
bad idea obviously

Well Arsenal aren't the only team with a lot of players in the squad.  At least six Everton players are in there and who would they bring in to replace them?


Uploaded with [URL=http://imageshack.u

shlj

  • Guest
Re: Fit for purpose
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2007, 06:47:36 PM »
It would be a great leveller and would give a chance for most team to have a go at the premier league  ;D
bad idea obviously

Well Arsenal aren't the only team with a lot of players in the squad.  At least six Everton players are in there and who would they bring in to replace them?

6 out of 23 well that leaves a good chance for Charlton to win it next season  ;)