GARY Waddock expects Oxford United’s players to report for duty in good condition as pre-season training begins today.
The squad will undergo a series of tests to gauge their fitness six weeks before the start of the new Sky Bet League Two campaign.
Only goalkeeper Ryan Clarke and midfielder Andy Whing, both recovering from injuries, will not take part.
The remainder, including Johnny Mullins, who has fully recovered from the foot problem which ruled the defender out of the final weeks of last season, have been following individual fitness routines during the close season.
All the talk over the past week has been about off-field matters, with United owner Ian Lenagan understood to be involved in takeover talks.
A consortium involving Mark Ashton and Darryl Eales is thought to be in advance talks with Lenagan, with a second group of Oxfordshire businessmen – led by Charlie Methven – publicly stating their interest also.
But – for now at least – attention can turn to the playing side of the club, and Waddock, the U’s head coach, is planning to hit the ground running.
He said: “The players have programmes to do in the off-season.
“I was in and out of the training ground during the summer and the players have been doing the same.
“They will come back in good condition.
“First we will do the testing with (head of sports science) Alasdair Lane to see where they are.
“Then on the training ground and working on the fitness side of things, then team shape.
“You are looking for it all to come together when the season kicks off.”
The sport has advanced significantly since Waddock was a player in the 1980s and 1990s, when pre-season sessions involved long cross-country runs.
United’s players will be working with footballs from the beginning, but the U’s chief made it clear that did not mean it would not be tough.
“For me, footballers need to work on the ball, whether that’s a physical session or not,” he said.
“They are out from day one.
“It won’t be easy, put it that way. Hard work can be done on the balls because I want us to be a hard-working team.”
Having taken over in March during the midst of United’s miserable run-in to last season, the next few weeks will be the first opportunity for Waddock to spend significant time working with the players.
The former Wycombe boss is raring to get started, but the players will already have an idea of what is required.
He said: “Pre-season is a good place, we’ll come in and everybody looks forward.
“There will be a change in terms of training, but the players have already seen that to a degree.
“They have had a taste of how I plan to structure a training session, it won’t be a surprise to them.”
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