SUNDERLAND are overhauling their backroom operation in a bid to to prevent a repetition of the injury crisis which derailed them last season, writes Graeme Anderson.
The club has looked closely at the frightening number of injury problems picked up over the course of the 2010/11 campaign.
Although manager Steve Bruce still believes that chance and bad luck were the major causes, he is to shake up the way rehabiliation has been handled in the past, hoping to avoid problems in the future.
The changes will see an end of the system whereby the physios do their specialist work in rehab and then hand the recovering player back to the fitness coaches.
Instead, long-serving physio David Binningsley has been handed the role of continuing to oversee players’ progress once they leave the treatment room, in order to ensure there’s an overview of the footballers’ condition.
The club is also moving to ensure that fitness coaches Scott Ainsley and Will Royall – who currently work on different aspects of players’ fitness, work more closely together.
The new system is a result of the inquest that both Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce promised would take place before the end of the campaign.
Sunderland’s hopes of a higher finish to the season and a possible tilt at automatic European qualification were ruined by a succession of serious injuries which seemed to happen on an almost weekly basis at one point.
Fraizer Campbell and David Meyler suffered the longest-term injuries but there were also lengthy lay-offs for Michael Turner, Craig Gordon Lee Cattermole, Danny Welbeck and Titus Bramble.
When you factor in regular injuries to Kieran Richardson, John Mensah, Anton Ferdinand and Asamoah Gyan, it’s easy to see why Sunderland’s season fizzled out.
At one stage, the manager had an entire football team on the treatment table!
Bruce maintains that in many ways the list of injuries could be seen as simply a freak occurrence.
Nevertheless, he is looking to take no chances and hopes the tweaking backroom will iron out several potential failings.
He confirmed: “I’m going to bring Scott Ainsley to work more closely alongside Will Royall.
“But the major change will be bringing up David Binningsley to see players all the way through the rehab side of things.
“We’ve decided to put one man on a player throughout the whole recovery process so that players aren’t passed along from one section to another.
“It’s possible that there’s a gap there between players moving from one stage to the other and that’s where problems could occur – everyone does their job but without someone overseeing the bigger picture it might be that the switch from one system to the other is not helpful.
“Hopefully this way, by working more closely as a team, you get a more coherent approach and the players aren’t swapping too much from doing one thing to doing another.
“And hopefully you have more of an understanding of what the staff collectively think players should and should not be doing.”
Bruce himself still believes that whatever changes are made, he is unlikely to have such an injury-hit season again.
“I’ve been managing for well over a decade and doing pretty much everything we did last season throughout all that time and I’ve never known a spell like it,” he said.
“If you analyse them, most of the injuries happened in games and you can’t plan for that – you can’t legislate for someone landing on Mensah’s ankle or Michael Turner crashing into a goalpost or Fraizer Campbell and David Meyler twisting their knees when their boots make the wrong connection with the turf.
“To have so many serious injuries, to key players too, was horrendous but a lot of it was just stuff you could do little about.”