As the halfway mark of the 2017-18 football season looms, Falmouth Town have enjoyed an excellent start so far, sitting in fourth place in the South West Peninsula League Premier and still in both cups, writes Matt Friday While there are a number of reasons for their upturn in fortunes this season, one factor is their improved fitness levels, which has seen them score vital goals in the latter stages of matches and improved the side’s all-round performance.

But how has this change happened? Strength and Conditioning coach Sam Guy spoke to the Falmouth Packet to explain.

Guy is one half of fitness company Cornwall High Performance, and he and colleague Rob Smaldon have been working with Falmouth Town since the start of pre-season after being approached by manager Andrew Westgarth.

Guy said: “I guess in his [Westgarth’s] mind he wanted the boys looking sharp and fit for the start of the season. We did two hours a week, one hour per session. We did between 12 and 16 sessions over pre-season and then we’ve carried it into the season as well.”

So what needs to go into a fitness session for a group of footballers?

Guy said: “Football has a ton of changing direction, jumping, back-pedalling and lateral movement, tonnes of short mini-sprints and obviously having to maintain that for 90 minutes. So the sessions are geared around the physical demands of the sport.

“The first 10 minutes are geared towards really good movement and jumping and landing properly because that underpins everything that happens on the pitch.

“We’ll then move into some speed work, starting with movement mechanics like sprinting, changing direction and accelerating properly, with correct body and arm positions.

“Then we’ll get on to moving fast, so that might be acceleration over 20-25 metres, recover, repeat, so it’s got a real speed element to it, and making sure that the lads are maximising their outputs on speeds. Then we finish the session with aerobic work.”

The team has slowly begun to adapt to the gruelling sessions through repetition, but it had proved a shock to striker Rob Wearne, who re-joined the club in October following a short spell at St Austell.

Guy said: “Rob Wearne has come into it and he said to me at the end of the session, ‘Mate, I’ve not done anything like that in a while!’.

“It’s a repeated thing, it’s not ‘oh five sessions will fix it’, it’s repeatedly doing it that makes you effectively a better team.”

Town are certainly enjoying the fruits of their labour this season.

They have scored 21 of their 52 goals in the final 30 minutes of games – including five goals in the final 23 minutes in their recent 6-2 win at Callington.

Westgarth said: “We score a lot of our goals at the beginning of the game and at the end of the game so it shows that we’re good for the 90 minutes.

“I think if we were losing then they [the players] wouldn’t buy into it because they’d just think we were beasting them for the sake of it, but I think when you’re winning, they see the benefit of it.”

Assistant manager Charlie Davis also championed the benefit the improved fitness levels have had on the mental side of the game.

He said: “If you become fatigued then the first thing to go is your decision making. If you’re still feeling fresh or fit then you’re more likely to make that good decision, and that’ll be exaggerated if other teams are feeling a bit tired.

“Last season in the latter stages of games somebody would go and do a short corner and they would execute it really poorly and actually they haven’t thought about the ramifications if it goes wrong.

“Whereas this year you expect them to set that corner up really well and go through all the bits we practised in training.”

So the goal statistics and the feedback from the coaching staff show that there has been a clear impact on the players’ improved fitness levels, but why has this happened?

“The number one aim is to be as efficient and move as well as possible and this is the improvement that has happened. All of the pre-requisites and running mechanics that we do focus on optimal movement, which is why the lads are fitter because there’s much less energy wasted,” said Guy.

Davis believes that other clubs at South West Peninsula League level will follow suit.

He said: “I imagine it will be a trend over the next couple of years. Each year a team is trying to do something a little different and try to be a little bit more professional. The boys play on nice pitches and get nice tracksuits, and I think this is that next bolt-on really.

“It’s filtering down from the professional game that people are starting to realise the impact of being fit, and at our level where the football can be hit and miss, if at least you can work hard you’ll always give yourself a chance of being competitive.”