Pre-Season Tour

It's the time of year when the majority of football teams head off during pre-season training for a tour. There are several reasons behind leaving our shores in the UK, with anything from 5 days to 2 weeks in a foreign country.

The idea of bonding a new group of players together and setting down the tactics for the season combined with the benefits of living, eating and training together in a warmer climate enable a new group to build a cohesive team spirit and get to know each other on a personable scale.

The transfer window ending after the season has started however presents many challenges to this though, as the many squads are still in transition during the pre-sesson tour, with uncertainty as to who my be joining the team and who may be leaving the club.

The global expansion of our game especially in the Premier League, means many of the bigger clubs travel long distances to engage with supporters, not just on television but up close and personal, and to build the brand. Sponsorship is important and worldwide exposure is required to meet the ever spiralling costs involved in the modern game. America and Asia are popular destinations.

The long flights, with different time zones to cross affects sleep - vitally important especially during pre-season. The differing weather conditions, heat and humidity affects the hydration levels of the body - poor hydration levels increase the risk of injury and decreases performance. The importance of exercise, getting fit and understanding the coaches tactics for the season require the training area or match pitches to be of the standard required of elite sport - the risk of injury with uneven or very hard un-watered ground can have disastrous consequences on a players and teams season.

I've been involved in pre-season for 35 years and been very fortunate to travel to some beautiful places in the world and train surrounded with breathtaking scenery. 

Surrounded by breathtaking scenery during pre-season training.  This is in beautiful Interlaken in Switzerland with Southampton in 2011.

Surrounded by breathtaking scenery during pre-season training.  This is in beautiful Interlaken in Switzerland with Southampton in 2011.

The pre-season games allows teams to play against other teams they wouldn't usually meet. This can be an exciting change and being able to perform against opposition of different levels, differing cultural mindsets in how they play the game - very defensive, possession based, direct play or counterattack, can be beneficial. However sometimes if the games are not controlled correctly by the officials, the competitive nature of football can get out of hand physically and unnecessary injuries occur, again being detrimental to the season ahead.

I've always enjoyed taking in the culture of the place we have visited on the pre-season tour and not just be in the hotel room, training pitch and then hotel room again. I believe it's important to embrace the culture, a visit to a local landmark, understanding how the people go about their daily lives, the food and drink of the area - all helps expand our knowledge of the world we live in. 

The supporters are the lifeblood of any team. To be able to look forward to a summer holiday supporting your team in a different country is exciting. I know many fans want to know as early as possible where and when the team are going on tour so they can plan accordingly to travel as well.

I know from personal experience of supporting the British Lions on their 2005 tour against the All Blacks in New Zealand how fantastic it is. The ability to plan the route and travel around the South Island of New Zealand following the team was amazing. The ability to take in the culture, see the local sites, the local food and drink and meet the local people enlightening. 

Places I've enjoyed going to for the pre-season tour and have fantastic memories of include, Russia and the Isle of Man with Wigan Athletic, Jersey, Limerick, Ibiza with Scunthorpe United, Interlaken in Switzerland and Evian in France with Southampton, and Portugal with Reading.

Taking in the culture and famous landmark St.Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, in Moscow, Russia, 1990 on tour with Wigan Athletic. Club tracksuit was in style back then !

Taking in the culture and famous landmark St.Basil's Cathedral, Red Square, in Moscow, Russia, 1990 on tour with Wigan Athletic. Club tracksuit was in style back then !