Foster: “We Were So Supremely Fit”
By Kevin Affleck
Ben Foster is getting the vibe that the Hornets are going to be in similar physical shape to last season when they started the campaign like a runaway train.
Javi Gracia’s primary objective last summer was to get his players in peak condition ahead of his first full season in charge and the move paid off handsomely as the Golden Boys rattled off five wins on the bounce, setting them up nicely for their highest ever Premier League finish and a thrilling run to the final of the FA Cup.
Foster is in no doubt that the foundations were laid during the gruelling summer months and reports there has been no real let-up again during this pre-season.
“Javi’s pre-seasons are pretty good, to be fair,” said the goalkeeper. “The outfield players work very hard and that was the one of the big pluses from last season in the way we started. We were so supremely fit. The lads just get on with and I’ve been at some clubs where people moan. You still get your moaners but here the lads just do it and that’s a credit to them.”
The players have been put through the mill in Austria, particularly on Monday when they churned out lap after lap of their training pitch at the foot of the Austrian mountains in Tyrol. There were members of the squad crawling off the pitch after that particular session.
“We do double sessions every day of the week,” said Foster. “The first day [of pre-season] was just testing and then it’s straight into hitting it hard. We have double sessions, a single session on a Saturday and then off on the Sunday to recover. That’s needed as everyone is on their hands and knees by the end of the week. The first three weeks are pretty hard as you’ve just had six or seven weeks off. You do your treadmill stuff, your gym stuff when you are off, or in my case preparing yourself by cycling up mountains, but nothing can prepare you for that first week and the aches that come with it. It’s a big shock to the system. It eases off after three weeks and you are then double session, single session, double session.”
The 36-year-old is now into his 18th year as a professional and he’s been there, done that and got just about every T-shirt. He’s seen just how the advent of sport science has changed how players are handled in pre-season.
“We used to be running up mountains and stuff – it was horrible, so it’s definitely changed,” he said. “The goalkeepers now have their own schedule and it’s fairly separate from the players. We’ll always join in towards the end when it comes to doing games and six-a-sides.”
Foster also loves how low key the Hornets’ tour is and how they can get the important base work done without too many distractions and sideshows.
“The big Asia tours don’t really appeal to me,” said the former Manchester United goalkeeper. “We’ve come to Austria, the same place, the same hotel as last year. It’s a lovely place. The training ground is great, it’s a really nice set-up, it’s a lovely setting and there are mountains everywhere and stuff to keep you occupied. It’s exactly what you need and you can just focus on getting fitness in your legs and there are no temptations. You are not going out to be in bars and stuff.”