Football Expert & Columnist
Super Sunday Off Script: Jamie Carragher's pre-season tales
In the first Super Sunday Off Script, Jamie Carragher delves into the world of pre-season...
Last Updated: 15/08/19 3:19pm
The opening round of Premier League fixtures brought an official end to pre-season. After jetting off across the globe on tours that seem to get more outlandish as each year passes, the time has come to see whether it was all worth it.
Pre-seasons are now finely crafted operations that should improve a club's fortunes on and off the pitch if done correctly, but it didn't used to be that way.
Jamie Carragher joins Geoff Shreeves to shed some light on his experiences through the years and how pre-season as we know it may have changed for good on the first episode of the Super Sunday Off Script podcast.
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It's not a race, but you can't come last
I used to enjoy pre-season, despite complaining about it. I used to like actually getting fit, going away somewhere for a couple of weeks, getting new players integrated and preparing for the season. I liked getting back eating healthier, no alcohol.
Back in the day players used to bladder it on the ale or by eating and then come to pre-season looking to lose fat and get trim. But pre-season is about getting fit, not losing fat.
Carragher on pre-season training
As I got older, pre-season changed. In the old days we got told to run laps and that sort of thing. When I did pre-season aged 16, I'd do exactly that same as Ian Rush and John Barnes, everyone was in together; teenagers and seasoned professionals.
Was it basically run, run, run and make sure you didn't get beaten by the fat goalkeepers? Exactly. It wasn't a race, but you couldn't come last! Luckily, David James was there, he was a bit of a unit and couldn't run!
Right, who has let themselves go?
You could tell early on by the size of players and the way they ran who had let themselves go.
Back in the day players used to bladder it on the ale or by eating and then come to pre-season looking to lose fat and get trim. But pre-season is about getting fit, not losing fat!
The old way was about losing a bit of timber but it's not like that anymore, players come back the same weight and a lot of them don't drink alcohol. God knows what they do with their time in the summer!
Pre-season slog a thing of the past?
It was different then, pre-seasons are easier now. There's a lot more sports science, heart monitors and that sort of thing and that's better in some ways, players have their own individual programmes more than everyone doing the same thing as a group.
People used to grimace years ago but it's almost like we're getting to a stage where players aren't even having a pre-season. Sadio Mane came on for Liverpool against Norwich having had just two weeks off after playing in the Africa Cup of Nations.
It's almost like pre-season is similar to a player getting an injury, players miss three or four weeks and come back. The days of that full slog in pre-season may be gone.
Priorities in pre-season
The first priority for pre-season was to get fit but to also make sure you were in the first team on the first day of the season. I was fortunate to play in most of the opening-day matches I was involved in.
But that is a big problem sometimes. The manager can only pick 11 players and there are no injuries as everyone is fit and focused on getting on that teamsheet immediately after pre-season.
The manager can bring people in and he picks the team, and a lot of people were left upset on the opening day of the season.
A manager's excuse or reason was always that the team that starts the season doesn't finish the season, but I used to like telling other people that sob story!
Selfishness can surface
I never moved club so didn't experience joining another club in pre-season, but when new signings came in and tried to integrate there was a lot of worry. Was someone coming in to take my place?
You would make up your mind whether you thought they were awful or if the club had made a good signing, but I had to fight and battle and hope the manager would give me the nod.
I remember when Liverpool signed Steve Finnan and that was direct competition for me. My most important thing was to make sure I was better than the players trying to replace me. Fortunately enough I saw most of them off before I got to a stage where I couldn't because I was too old.
That is a big thing, managers don't buy a player for every position every summer, there are probably two or three positions a manager needs to improve every year.
When it is one of your positions you sort of forget about the club and the team you're playing for and play for yourself to make sure you're safe. A lot like Geoff Shreeves when Patrick Davison came to Sky Sports!
My mentality was that no one was getting my place, it was just not happening. The way I trained every day made sure of that.
In fairness, in football you're a team and you're on a journey for 10 months and you hope that your lifting trophies and achieving what you want to achieve come May, but it's a selfish game and there are lots of players in the dressing room.