SPIREITES: Chesterfield’s Ritchie Humphreys looking to make the most of ‘marginal gains’

Chesterfield vs Burnley - Ritchie Humphrey's tries to charge down a shot - Pic By James Williamson
Chesterfield vs Burnley - Ritchie Humphrey's tries to charge down a shot - Pic By James Williamson

Ritchie Humphreys says the sports science equipment used by the Spireites will help them make “marginal gains”.

Chesterfield players have worn GPS vests to track their movements in training sessions and pre-season friendlies this summer, which has helped monitor individual fitness levels before the big kick off.

Ritchie Humphreys Hartlepool United against Chesterfield. Picture by FRANK REID

Ritchie Humphreys Hartlepool United against Chesterfield. Picture by FRANK REID

The technology is the same as what is used by Premier League clubs and Humphreys believes the information recorded has been useful in ensuring he is in peak condition for the season opener against Barnsley.

Long days sprinting up and down hills and running round the track in bin bags to get fit to play football might well be a thing of the past - and the versatile 37-year-old says the game is better because of it.

He said: “I enjoy the pre-season training, staying fit and being a footballer. Being a footballer is a very privilege position and without your fitness you’re not a footballer so it’s your priority. You have to enjoy your summers - take the family on holiday, but at the back of your mind is the fitness work.

“When the kids have gone to bed in the hotel, get in the gym and do your work on the machines. Coming back in to pre-season is very different to when I first started. When I started it was designed to get fit, now people are in good condition and can go straight in to football and there’ll be no muscle injuries.

“We do a lot of injury prevention work with the fitness coach. It’s been very scientific with the new GPS vests. It’s a great bit of technology and the first time I’ve been able to use it, looking at that and how we can improve. Do we over train throughout the season? It says everything on the vests.

“It’s made me think that we probably have over-trained in the past, that group of players from my generation, when we’ve played two games a week. We can’t wear them in league games but you can wear them in friendlies and reserve games. It gives an average of what you should be covering on a match day.

“If you’ve not played you can cover the same distance afterwards or through the week so that when you are needed, if you’re out of the team, you can step on to the pitch having done the same amount of sprints, jumps, turns as the lads who have been playing games. It’s all data for the fitness coach to monitor.”

Humphreys is set to embark on his 21st season as a professional footballer and is keen to embrace the ever-changing impact technology has on the game as well as other sports, pointing towards the cycling success of Team Sky in recent years.

“The game’s gone like that and you’ve got to go with it,” he said. “I’ve tried to embrace everything as I’ve gone along from supplementation with a nutritionist - all small things help. It’s like the Dave Brailsford cycling philosophy: marginal gains can make a big difference.

“It might only be one per cent here and there. Like with you’re recovery, it’s not just the foods you eat and the drinks you drink away from the football club, it’s sleep and all things like that. That’s how in depth it has to go all the way through the football leagues now, not just on the top level.”

Chesterfield expect to go in to Saturday’s clash with Barnsley without any injuries and Humphreys says it’s something the management team, in particular strength and conditioning coach Mal Purchase, deserve credit.

“The manager let him (Mal) take all the early work in pre-season because you don’t want any injuries,” he said. “In what of the manager’s first talks he said ‘if the lads are injured they can’t train’ and they are all in good shape. Managing muscle injuries and prevention is all monitored by Mal.

“If you’re running around a track then that will get you good at running around the track, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will get you playing good football and fit for football. That’s what Mal has introduced, making sure we’re fit to play football.”

And, now that pre-season has finished, Humphreys is itching for the start of competitive action.

“We’ve had very good results in pre-season, minus the defeat to Hull,” he said. “The result wasn’t not very good but the performance was great. We were fantastic against Burnley and all the other games we’ve had we’ve won so it’s pleasing but it all leads towards Saturday now.

“The first bank of fixtures provides that competitive edge and I think that’s what everyone misses. Results in pre-season have helped to breed confidence among the group. We know we’ve conceded goals when we know we can improve, to iron out anything we need to.”

Humphreys added: “Hopefully it will be a packed house here on Saturday. Everyone around the country will be saying the same thing: ‘we’ve got to get off to a good start’, well it’s up to us to go and do it. Once the lads cross the white line on Saturday then it’s down to us.”