What to do when the English weather ruins your pitches, compromising training and postponing fixtures? Have a session in the bar, of course.
But at Hampton and Richmond Borough the players were not enjoying the bar in the fashion familiar to most. Instead, their physiotherapist, Mark Findley, revamped the area into a gruelling strength and conditioning circuit.
Hampton and Richmond sit eighth in the Vanarama National League South, three points adrift of Dorking Wanderers with two games in hand. And their manager, Gary McCann, is not prepared to let the recent storms blow his side’s play-off hopes off-track.
He said: “The wettest winter in God knows how long is causing problems but the work of those beyond the players is really brilliant.
“Our groundsman, Richard, works out of Hampton School part-time on an hourly rate and treats the grass like it’s his back yard.
“Sometimes we’re forced to have games elsewhere or play a power league, but often we train at the Beveree, just not on the pitch – we go up on the square, which is effectively a car park, about 80 by 50 metres, to get a fitness session done.
“There isn’t much you can do with a ball up there because it’s like a cow field most of the time – all you can do is strength and conditioning.
“We’ve also done two or three sessions in the bar area. It’s about improvising.
“When I say the bar, it’s the front end of the bar that gets shut off. We clear it out and Mark does core work, strength work, brings in equipment. He’ll bring medicine balls, steps… to create a circuit that gets the lads sweating.”
Striker Danilo Orsi-Dadomo added: “The circuit involved ten press-up-planks, 40 medicine ball twists, ten crunches and a lap around the pitch; then nine press-up-planks, twists, crunches and a lap; then eight, and so on.
“In all it took about half an hour – and it wasn’t nice. I know some of the boys were reporting carpet burns the morning after.”
The club’s improvisation can only be admired and, with matches being called off regularly, it’s McCann’s attitude – both on and off the pitch – that is keeping his players’ focus sharp.
“Patience is not an issue, the players understand the problems are uncontrollable. We can only deal with the controllables. But we’re in March and we weren’t expecting to have to put in-house games on to keep match fitness sharp. We have to cover all bases.
“I work with them: I create match day environments on a Thursday night, the tempo and intensity I demand on a Thursday are that of a match day.
“We surround ourselves with good people so we don’t have any whinging or a negative reaction to problems.”
McCann has been a taxi driver for 11 years – a job he describes as perfect due to its flexibility and convenience – and is quietly confident of how his squad’s play-off push will fare.
He said: “The play-offs? We fancy it? Of course. Are the players mentally geared for making it happen? For sure. We’re still one of the outsiders but it’s in our own hands.
“I shortened the squad about three months ago, from about 21 to 17, which means we’re working with a smaller but better quality group. We need to stay healthy towards this business end but we are quietly confident, in a position where the pressure isn’t on us.
“The pressure is elsewhere on the teams who have spent an absolute fortune to get where they are, like Dulwich, Maidstone, Dartford, Chelmsford, Dorking.
“Those budgets should be in the play-offs – and that is not taking anything away from the efforts of their players and managers, but most would be expecting us to be fighting at the other end of the table.
“We’re overachieving budget-wise, not with the group of players and people around them that we’ve assembled.”