It’s been a Premier League season like no other, with a packed schedule seeing the games come thick and fast, so Palace TV sat down with the club’s Fitness Coach Scott Guyett to ask him how he’s handled such a busy year in – wait for it – such unprecedented times.
“The last 12 months have been really, really tough,” he says, “even going to the back end of last season.
“You come into this season after a very short break, and there are a lot of challenges. Pre-season with COVID-19 – although you were back in training – you weren’t able to do a traditional pre-season; not just because you had a reduced amount of time to do it in, but you’re restricted as to what type of drills you can do.”
Guyett says that the injuries players across the Premier League are suffering this season has reinforced his belief in the importance of a proper pre-season regime.
“I don’t know what is so important about pre-season, but it is so important for the players,” he says.
“It’s a progressive six weeks where you start with some general fitness work and then you progress as you go along and you do more specific work. Then you get your game minutes, which progresses from 45s, to 60s, to 80s and 90s.
“And [without a pre-season] you tend to miss all that. You end up not doing any of that and you go straight into a 90 minutes for example, and it’s a big ask.”
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Gaining minutes is crucial according to Guyett, an example of where playing with Palace’s Under-23s side can come in useful.
“If you don’t play for three weeks in the Premier League, for me you need a game somewhere,” he explains, “whether it’s in the U23s with Shaun Derry, or whether you have a training ground game here.
“One of the things we’ve tried to do this season is have players [returning to fitness after injury] playing more competitive games. They’re playing U23s games, because it’s so important that players get that exposure.
“There’s training and doing drills, but nothing can prepare you for that 11 v 11 against opposition you’re not used to playing against – everything that goes into preparing for a game and how you prepare yourself.
“I think psychologically it helps a player as well. If they get thrown into a Premier League game having played two 90 minutes in the previous two weeks, I think they’re a lot more confident about completing the game.”
Palace’s upgraded Academy status has seen the U23s and U18s side move up to the highest levels of youth football, something which has been beneficial for the first-team too.
“We’re playing better opposition now that we’re a Category 1 [Academy],” Guyett points out. “When we send three lads over there to play in an U23s game, rather than playing against Colchester U23s – and that’s no disrespect to Colchester – they’re playing against Aston Villa’s U23s or Fulham’s U23s.
“It’s a lot more appealing for the players.”
A lack of pre-season training was compounded by a hectic schedule that has seen frequent midweek fixtures, and Palace regularly play three games per week.
“It’s very difficult when you’re playing every four or five days. It’s so challenging.
“You’re not exposed to three game weeks in the Premier League very often, and when we do get one it’s a big challenge. We don’t do it very often.
“You have to change things in the lead up to a three game week. It is a huge challenge having a squad big enough and robust enough to be able to compete. Three games a week, consistently, is very tough because the game now is so quick, it’s so demanding – a lot more than even 10 years ago.”
Check out Scott Guyett’s full interview below!