Scott Guyett: Pre-season with Crystal Palace
Written by Simon Austin — July 5, 2019
SCOTT GUYETT has been Head of Sports Science and Strength and Conditioning at Crystal Palace for the last nine years.
The Australian told TGG about the Eagles' work during pre-season, new Manchester United signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, working with manager Roy Hodgson and his studies on the Master of Sport Directorship course at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Scott Guyett: I’ve never had issues with players coming back overweight or lacking in fitness after the close season. Most of the lads will have been doing something, even when they were on holiday. They’ll have been ticking over and following the programmes we gave them.
We gave general advice to the players with some individualised elements. For the first couple of weeks away, we’re happy if they relax and play a bit of golf or tennis.
Then we give details of some fitness runs to do on the treadmill. For the final two weeks we want them to get outside and do a bit of pitch-based running and we give examples of runs they should do, with distances and timings.
Most clubs will have these fitness programmes during the close-season. A lot of our players are also internationals, so they’ll typically get 10 days off, then go away with their international teams, then have some more time off after that.
Premier League footballers are athletes 365 days of the year and there’s never a significant period when they’re not doing anything.
We started pre-season testing last Thursday and Friday. All in all, the testing takes about an hour and a half for each player.
We measure body composition; the boys will all see the club doctor and do a SCAT test, which is like a concussion test; then they go to the physios for a general musculo-skeletal screen. This is done using hand-held dynamometers, nothing too invasive, just some quick tests.
We use the NordBord to test hamstring strength and an isokinetic dynamometer - we are lucky to have one of those machines - which evaluates strength, endurance, power and range of motion for all the major joints and muscles.
Then we do some hop tests, calf capacity, and a VO2 max test at the end. Most of these are to give us baseline data and we will test again during the season. They give us an idea of where the players are at, acting as a reference point if they have to return from injury during the season. Then, when they’re in rehab, we will re-test them to see where they are in comparison to pre-season.
The doctor also takes bloods and a Vitamin D test will be done later in the season, when the weather changes a bit. Going back six seasons, we had a go at doing saliva testing too, but you can get a little bit carried away with testing. They’re footballers and you don’t want to just test them as soon as they come in the door.
Sometimes the best way to find out how a player feels is to talk to them. I know them and trust them. If someone comes in and says they’re not feeling great and can’t do a full session then nine times out of 10 we’ll do something about that.
We don’t want them doing half an hour of testing to find out if they’re ready to train. Everyone is trying to sell you the latest bit of tech that will reduce injuries by 40%, but get the basics right first.
Is your periodised week correct? Are you training correctly? Are you doing the right things at the right times? If not, then the tech doesn’t matter.
Scott Guyett is on cohort 5 of the Master of Sport Directorship course at Manchester Metropolitan University. He told us about his experiences after his first year of the course.
Scott Guyett: The course has been really good. It’s been tough to balance with work and having a 15-month old daughter, but I thoroughly enjoy going up to Manchester every six weeks for a two-day block at the University.
Every time I’m on the train back down to London I think, ‘that was genuinely worth it’.
The speakers are really good. We’ve had (Wolves Sporting Director) Kevin Thelwell, (psychology professor and author) Damian Hughes and Sporting Directors from other sports. It’s not just about football and it's really good to meet fellow students from different backgrounds, like cricket and even snowboarding.
A big part of the course is leadership and that’s already helped me in my current role, especially in thinking about how I speak to staff and players at Palace. That’s been one of the biggest changes in football during my time in the game.
We were officially back on the grass on Monday this week. We didn’t have a big group, because a few of the lads are playing in the African Cup of Nations and a few were in the Nations League. Those players came back in on Thursday.
We started with two quite general sessions and didn’t try and smash the lads. Most of the work was with the ball. Wednesday was a recovery day and at the end of the week we moved into more tactical work.
The manager likes to have the players doing his tactical work reasonably early in pre-season. There will be a little bit of conditioning work as well. A lot of Roy’s in-season sessions are similar to what we do in pre-season.
We might just make the games a little bit longer, the dimensions a bit bigger, to make it a little bit more demanding. Then, on Saturday, we go to Switzerland for a training camp. We’ll do 3 x 12 minutes 11 v 11 as preparation for our first game, which is on Tuesday, against Luzern.
I didn’t work directly with Aaron until he came to train with the first team a couple of seasons ago and if you’d told me five years ago that this guy would move to Manchester United for £50m at the age of 21, I’d have laughed.
But Aaron did so well as soon as he came into the first team and took everything in his stride. He’s an incredible athlete - that was apparent as soon as he came to train with the first team - and was the only player I’d seen who could consistently beat Wilfred Zaha in a one-on-one.
He’s quick, I wouldn’t say lightning, but is also very powerful, agile and has exceptional timing.
Some of the things he’d do in training - which people don’t see - you’d be shaking your head and saying ‘how did he just make that tackle?’
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid, because Aaron is a really genuine and dedicated lad. What an opportunity for him.
You have to be flexible as a practitioner and accept that different managers work in different ways and there isn’t just one way of doing things. I’ve learnt so much from the managers I’ve worked under at Palace - Roy, Sam Allardyce, Tony Pulis, Alan Pardew, Neil Warnock - incredibly experienced managers and I’ve learnt something from all of them.
Like anything, you need to build relationships. If I storm into a new manager’s officer and say, ‘you can’t do this, we need to do more of that,’ I’m unlikely to be in a job for very long.
One of the great things about Roy is he’s very consistent with what he does. We train Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and he’s like that every week. He doesn’t throw in any curveballs.
We give Roy a report after every training session with all the physical information on it and every morning he reads it and asks me questions about it. His attention to detail is excellent.
I love it here at Palace, it’s a great club. I would like to call myself a club man, because I live right next to the training ground, I’m here all the time and have enjoyed working here for the last nine years.
We’ve had an incredible run in the Premier League - the longest in the history of the club - and there’s been an FA Cup final and some incredibly strong finishes along the way as well.
I first came in under George Burley in the Championship, in October 2010, having just finished playing. Having a playing background has definitely helped me in the job. In fact I used to room with one of our current players, Joel Ward.
I'm fortunate to have an excellent staff with me and we have a very good relationship with our owner, Steve Parish, who is very hands-on. Steve is a Palace fan and as a staff we see him before and after games. What he’s done for this club is phenomenal.