Any Walsall player who moans at having to go through the ordeals of pre-season had better not voice their disenchantment to new first team coach John Schofield.
The former Lincoln City manager, who joined the club as boss Jimmy Mullen’s No?2 last month, has no time for players who complain about any aspect of being a professional.
The 43-year-old knows all about what life is like outside football. He began his career in the non-league ranks, combining his football with his job as an apprentice-trained motor mechanic.
As a teenager, he had spent a season with Huddersfield Town’s reserve side before joining the then Northern Counties East League side Woolley Miners Welfare who were based in the village of Woolley Colliery. He then moved up the non-league pyramid, joining first Shepshed Charterhouse and then Matlock Town. In March 1988 he joined Gainsborough Trinity.
The then Lincoln City manager Colin Murphy soon spotted his talents and, aged 23, he joined the professional ranks in a £10,000 deal. Schofield quickly established himself in the Lincoln team and would go on to make 231 league appearances, scoring 11 times, in his first spell at the club and he has been voted as No?47 in Lincoln’s list of 100 league legends.
“I didn’t turn pro until I was 23 and I had what I call a proper job before that,” he said. “This isn’t a proper job. You set your own values and standards in life as a coach and as a person and you have to drive across the messages you believe in and I believe people are lucky to be footballers. The flip side is they work damn hard to get the chance.”
Pre-season training has certainly evolved since Schofield was a young player. Gone are the summers where the players never see a ball until the friendlies start, with the emphasis solely on hard running.
Now clubs take a more scientific and sensible approach to conditioning.
“Pre-seasons have certainly changed since I was playing,” Schofield said. “ I used to take it easy during the break and then go for about three runs in the final fortnight before we returned.
“These days the players know the importance of looking after themselves during the summer and are all professional in their approach.
“They will have done their summer fitness programmes and we will have the balls out in the first week because as well as your fitness, your touch can go when you aren’t in training.
“We will not be trying to get everyone fit in just three days, it is a gradual process to get the players where they should be.
“We have to be careful because a vast amount of injuries take place in pre-season and they can wipe out a season for a player. The main priority is to prevent injuries, not cause them.”