Former Preston Grasshoppers player and ex-director of rugby at Lightfoot Green writes every Friday for the Evening Post
Writing this column has been an eye opener for me in terms of what the Preston public knows about Hoppers and how the club goes about competing at the level it does.
For instance, I was quizzed this week by a non-rugby fan about the playing set-up at Lightfoot Green.
“Do they train every day?” was one particular question.
There seemed to be surprise when I informed them that they didn’t as Hoppers are not a full-time professional outfit.
“Are they not? I always thought you rugger lads up there were pros? I didn’t realise that!” It’s something I hear regularly.
To be clear, the club is semi-professional, in that players receive appearance fees but none are full time players.
So, for the non-rugby fans out there, what does go into a normal week for a team like Hoppers competing at National League level?
Here is just a glimpse.
Whilst Sunday is a day off for the players (save for any individual recovery sessions), the coaches and management deal with any issues arising from Saturday’s games and start to prepare for the training week ahead.
Issues that require immediate attention are usually if injuries have been picked up the day before or if there has been a disciplinary problem, such as a sending off.
If either has taken place then the physio team will be in contact with the injured players about managing their injury over the 72 hours until Tuesday night training.
If there has been a sending off then it will be necessary to start the disciplinary process with the player involved, as there will be a RFU Disciplinary hearing on Tuesday evening – which are normally held in Leeds.
The match videos are reviewed and the squad analyst prepares a video session which will form part of Tuesday night’s training.
The players have access to the match video to watch in their own time before training. They will also receive the match statistics including their own performance stats.
The coaches and rugby management will have a catch-up about the week ahead. There are program notes to be written if the following Saturday is a home game for the 1st XV.
The physio team may arrange to see injured players a day early if treatment would ensure availability for the following Saturday.
The players generally do their own gym work on non-training nights and there is a voluntary attendance gym session with the strength and conditioning coach at the club on a Monday evening.
The director of rugby finalises and submits any reports/evidence to the RFU in preparation for a disciplinary hearing.
The team manager confirms travel arrangements and that the kit is being laundered for the following week ,whilst the travel arrangements of the three match officials are confirmed.
This is squad training night. The coaches will meet beforehand to discuss early selection for the week ahead and review the injury list with the physio.
The walking wounded will see the physio before training, who confirms if they can participate. The rest of the squad has a pre-training gym session with the S&C coaches.
The coaches lead a video review of the previous weekend with the players, before undertaking a full training session.
The longer-term injured come in later to have physio assessment and work on their rehab with the S&C team.
The director of rugby makes the laborious trip over to Yorkshire for a hearing – if required – praying that it’s a quiet evening so that he is home before midnight!
Early team news is submitted for programme printing.
If there are any new players coming on board then their registration paperwork and contract are submitted to the RFU in good time for them to be available to play at the weekend.
Players will do their own gym and fitness work.
This is the final squad training session of the week.
The players will have a pre-training gym session with the S&C team whilst the physio will undertake any fitness tests before selection is confirmed.
Selection is relayed to the playing squad at the start of the main training session, together with travel arrangements, whilst clothing attire for pre and post-match is specified.
The squad eats together after training, whilst new kit is issued to any new signings.
Generally a quiet day unless any last-minute registration paperwork needs to be completed before the week’s noon deadline.
Match day. Pitch inspections are done at 9am by an independent official if the weather has been bad.
For long-distance away games the squad will meet for breakfast at the ground before departure. For home games, the squad meets 90 minutes before kick-off at 2.30pm.
The team manager completes the official match cards and submits them to the RFU post-match to register the result, along with a copy of the match video.
Hopefully there will be a win to celebrate and the squad’s post match victory song “You’ve lost that loving feeling” gets a blast.
It’s when you hear this that you know that the hard work of the previous seven days has all been worthwhile.