I THINK with everything that is happening (or not happening) at present, we tend to forget that the new season is nearly upon us.

Premier League players are now coming back in for pre-season training.

My memories of that go way back to the lower divisions at Doncaster and Grimsby, where training in the olden days was more run, run, run, to shake off the extra pounds that most of them had put on in the long break.

It was understandable in some cases. The long, hard season and then being able to get off on holiday, put your feet up and I think most of them had more than a cup of tea or coffee!

With plenty of food as well, it tended to give them and their families a good break.

One of the first things we always did – whether it was in the lower divisions or the top flight – the players got weighed.

The trainers would report back to the manager how much a certain player had put on, bearing in mind what their weight had been at the end of a long season.

Sometimes we got the player into the office to have a go and warn him he better get back to the weight he needed to be for the first games starting.

But with pre-season games at the lower division level, I remember one of the highlights for me was a call from Don Revie, the then manager of the mighty Leeds United.

He offered me a pre-season game on our own pitch at Doncaster. That actually not only benefitted the playing side but the club itself, as a full house before the league games started was financially beneficial.

At the top level, you would look at games usually starting off against lower division teams, which gave me the opportunity to put various players out on the pitch at different times.

As the weeks went by, the main thing was to then play against the top-level type of team you would be facing when the league started. This really enabled us to go abroad.

There were one or two ex-players around in those days, who had gone into the travel company business and they were able to get you games around Europe against top-class clubs.

The income from these games covered the cost of hotels and travel.

It certainly benefitted everyone and sometimes supporters could take up the opportunity to travel abroad as well, see their team and have a bit of a holiday.

Results in pre-season were not too important. It was the opportunity for the manager and staff to check on each player’s fitness, also to experiment with systems – particularly against the lower division teams.

Any new signings that had come into the club were given the opportunity to mix and mingle in the dressing rooms and would join in for much longer periods.

Of course, they would also be put under the spotlight by having to sing a song in front of all the other players in the dressing room!

When the season started those players would have had a few weeks’ opportunity to become very much a part of the squad – bearing in mind the squads in those days are nowhere near as big as they are now.

The main thing to look out for was that you didn’t want any injuries. Any player for instance who had a bit of a knock or a limp, which they could normally stay on with in a league game, were taken off immediately.

You wanted plenty of subs to put on because you wanted your whole squad fit enough for selection when the real games started.

As I’ve said before, occasions like that gave you the opportunity to be in the dressing room areas or hotels more often, when you all had meals together – or trips around when you were abroad.

It gave management the opportunity to weigh up the character of each player. You would always find out who was the joker, the leader, the shy one and the naughty one.

Whilst most managers want their players to be doing well in World Cups or Euros, you don’t want your players to come back injured or worn out after tournaments.

Let’s hope Ralph has no problems with any of the players who have been at the Euros, having said that, we did not have any in the England team – but we can take some credit for Luke Shaw, who I thought was outstanding.

  • We all know a football career is not that long compared with any other jobs.

I suppose you had to be a bit sad to see that Mr Lionel Messi, a player who is now 34, even though he had been offered a five-year contract extension by Barcelona, he is going to have his salary reduced by half.

Would you believe, according to reports, he will now only get £61.5million a year. Poor soul.

He is apparently considering everything on holiday at the moment – I don’t think you can expect to bump into him on Bournemouth Beach!