Lee Southernwood & Kevin Nugent

Optimising Football Based Conditioning-report by Steve Haslam

Lee Southernwood and Kevin Nugent put on a number of well organised and structured small sided games, drills and exercises to develop all-round physical conditioning and intensity for players at all levels of the game.

The first practice was a small-sided, 6 v 6 game. The Leyton Orient coaches stressed a number of points which they were looking to develop through the game. These included: pressing, coach encouragement, competiive structure, running with the ball, intensity, played at match speed.

They made the point that at all levels of football the speed of the game increases at each higher level at which you progress. Consequently, Orient, who presently play in League 1, will find it quicker if they achieve promotion to the Championship and quicker still if they eventually reach the Premier League. Similarly, when young players are put into the 1st team squad for training because of the progress they have been making in their own age group, they usually struggle to begin with because of the pace.

The coach must show patience and help the young player to come to terms gradually with this higher pace level. When putting on any kind of practice, such as this small-sided game, it is important to get the selection of sides right re the competitive nature, so that everyone is stretched in their challenges and it is not too easy for some and not overly difficult for others. The coaches have a duty to ensure that the players work hard in training the whole time.
Adaptations were made to the practice. It was made 3 v 3 on the inside with the other 6 spaced 3 on each touchline to have one touch on the outside line, helping whichever team had possesion. So 6 players now had the chance of a breather whilst still part of the practice. Being 3 v 3 on the pitch meant increased work rate for them whilst they were in action.

Finally, a man for man marking element was added to the game, requiring physical and mental intensity, constant concentation because the man for man marking element appears to have disappeared from the game at the present time with the emphasis being on marking space.

The Orient coaches moved on to set up a series of possession football practices in a 30 x 30 yard area. An interesting innovation was a square marked in the middle of the area where the ball could neither be passed through or run through. So this forced the players off the ball to work on angles around the square to show themeselves to receive passes and, of course, they had to work very hard at this element. Also, chipping the ball to someone on the other side of the square – a vital skill.

Finally, work rate and intensity were really increased to a maximum when a player, having passed the ball, had to run round an inner coone of the square and an outer cone before resuming his availability to receive a pass in the practice. From a technical angle, this had the benefit of getting the players to keep possession when numerically inferior, as well as the obvious physical and intensity benefits.

A 5 v 5 two way pracictice, working the ball into an end zone and immediately changing direction to attack the opposite end, then followed.
A training area where the players had to run and dribble through cones.
A drill working a front player who, having set the ball back had to run around the ‘D’ on the edge of the penalty area to receive a cross for a first time strike on goal.

A similarly pressurised practice for a defender which ended with him dealing effectively to defend against a cross.

After Lee and Kevin had completed their programme, chairman John Cartwright made the observation of how the fitness work had been so good in relating to the playing of the game. He stressed to all the observing coaches how they can tweak and adapt the work to suit their players and that it was vital that it should always relate to the game play, as had been the case with the high quality work which we had been shown.