Fit To The Finish

Tony Daley on the recent late goals

Tony Daley today said Wolves’ recent run of strong finishes to games is just what the backroom staff would expect at this stage of the season.

And the club’s Head of Sport Science and Conditioning has paid tribute to the players who have followed the procedures put in place to give them the best chance of performing at a high level as the season nears its end.

Over the last five Sky Bet Championship fixtures Wolves have gained no fewer than five points from 85 minutes onwards, thanks to the winning goals against Derby County and Bristol City and equaliser at Burnley last time out.

They also notched a late consolation at Middlesbrough, meaning that late goals have arrived in all of the last five fixtures except for the home draw with Birmingham City.

“I think that is what is expected of us to be honest,” says Daley.

“We would be disappointed if we couldn’t do that at this stage of the season.

“The whole idea of planning for pre-season and progressing through the phases of the season is to be able to go through 94/95 minutes strongly all the way through.

“It has been good to be able to do that recently and to show the players are putting the hard work in.

“At this stage of the season a lot of it is down to the hard work they have done previously because now it is more about training and recovery.

“But any players who do need additional fitness work will get that at the appropriate time.

“At this time of the season it is not so much about the players who have been involved on a regular basis like Danny Batth and Kevin McDonald – they take care of themselves to a certain extent with their games and recovery because their fitness levels are very high.

“It is the likes of Jack Price, George Saville, Bjorn Sigurdarson, Michal Zyro, who come back in after not playing or being injured and can show they can produce high levels in terms of the distance covered and the number of sprints.

“All that data is assessed and the lads should be proud of what they have achieved in keeping those levels.

“We all know that talent is really important in players – having that ability whether it is skill on the ball, tight control, long passing, scoring goals, and you have to be able to repeat that again and again and again.

“There is not as much point having a player with those attributes who can only do it for ‘x’ amount of time in a game or at ‘x’ stage of a season.

“It is especially important in the Championship where it is so close and a lot of players have similar talent and ability to be able to go for the full 90 minutes, and do it in the last third of the season, to make a difference.

“There could be a Danny Batth tackle late in a game which could save you, or a save from Carl Ikeme showing his agility, or Joe Mason making a 30-yard break into the box to score a goal.

“For all that you need the right desire and the right fitness levels,  and while all teams have peaks and troughs being able to finish the season strongly is very important.”

What has been less welcome this season is a spate of injuries which have affected some key players in the Wolves squad, often at key times.

The level of players’ availability has been exceptionally high over the last two seasons, and while many of this season’s problems could not have been prevented, Daley says the medical and sport science teams are constantly assessing their approach and ensuring the pre-hab strategy of work for players both before and after outside training continues to have the desired effect.

“We always do think we can do something about injuries – we never rest on our laurels, as with anything else,” he explains.

“We are very consistent in setting a very high standard with avoiding injuries, especially soft muscle injuries.

“We are always gutted when we get one of those because we have everything in place to try and reduce the risk of it happening.

“We haven’t had many of those this season and a lot of the problem have been impact injuries or stress injuries which are very difficult to completely avoid.

“Unfortunately they are part and parcel of football and if they were avoidable then no team in the land would have injuries.

“We do try to avoid the ones that are easier to avoid and if we do pick up one or two soft muscle injuries we will always re-assess and try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“The players are assessed at the beginning of the season by the medical and sport science teams and any potential issues, be it landing mechanics, ability to sprint, any other medical issues, will be worked on diligently throughout the season.

“Players will have individual programes to work on any specific areas with the physios and sport scientists and will be regularly re-tested until progress is made and the issues have cleared up.

“There is a great deal of work done behind the scenes in preparation for every player.

“In previous seasons the record of keeping players on the field has been brilliant and and that is always what you are aiming for because the stronger the squad available for the gaffer, the better the chance of being higher up the league.”