Words by Gavin Blackwell

The majority of my time during the week is spent on what we call running repair injuries that raise the question; ‘Fit for Saturday?’

With pre-season players are getting into fifty plus games during the course of the campaign. That is a lot of games as well as training and results in a great deal of patching up of injuries which players accept and get on with, and full marks to them.

Players need help in all directions if they are to cope with the physical and mental draining over a long year, successful or otherwise. It is not only the training and playing which takes its toll although this is more apparent and visible, but the insidious effect of travelling with it inevitable killing time etc, which leaves its mark as teams have found to their cost.

As stated earlier staff must help provide whatever support and prop in whatever way they are qualified to give it. Easing aches and pains, protecting knocks and bruises and smoothing a lot of irksome problems of travel, and generally being available as a utility man is a way of contributing.

This may sound like cosseting and spoiling, and if it does I make no apology for it. Performers be they footballers, ballet dancers, pop stars, or opera singers, are subject to very different demands than most of us. Very few people in life are subject to reassessment every few days, having to satisfy the standards of their professional managers and please the vagaries of an often-fickle audience. People do not have to suffer the pleasures and agonies of such tests should think before they criticise and certainly those who work alongside players must understand, support and guide where possible. The paying public would probably argue that they pay the right to criticise and it is not their concern that a player has a problem on his mind or a stiff knee. Players accept that so it is more important staff listen and help.

All problems are relative be they some minor injury or a domestic issue, and they will assume greater or lesser influence on the player as the game gets nearer, and even then, it will depend on the importance of the game.

Take giving a player a slap and tickle massage of his legs because ‘they feel a bit stiff.’ Now a player will hardly ever ask for though throughout a hard training week but before a game will want it, but if that game is a testimonial or a friendly he won’t bother.

Ankle strappings are another illogical prop amongst others and the reason behind such illogicality is the game is ‘for real’ with competition and physical intimidation plus public appearance and fear of maybe having a bad game. Now the logical clinical view would be that if a thing is right it is right whatever the circumstances, and that a strapping is either indicated or not, or that massage if useful you should do it every time you train, not only every time you play.

But players are people, and people are not that black and white or cool under abnormal conditions. Certainly, the last time to discuss these fine academic points with players is at twenty to three on a Saturday, and if a player wants a strapping on his right ankle first but only if the is an R in the month, then you do exactly that if it helps a player into the right frame of mind to do his job. Not to do so would be to fail in the broad application of my job. That then is the nuts and bolts of preparing for matches and keeping players training.

Superimposed on these are the coughs and colds, and various medical conditions that crop up from time to time in a group of young people, skin conditions, ear and eye problems, particular players may have a long-standing troublesome corn, or a puzzling allergy.

Youth players may find some defect that needs attention on having the first medical, and young players produce some bone and joint conditions peculiar to them. Dental care and personal hygiene must be stressed as a way of preventive medicine, and players encouraged to at least come and see you about some apparent trivia so at lest it can be noted.

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