The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

LIFT­ING logs, rolling tyres, run­ning with sand­bags – Crewe’s latest train­ing ses­sion sounds more like an episode of World’s Strong­est Man.

But whilst the likes of Brian Shaw and Mag­nus Sa­muels­son get to flex their bi­ceps on a sun-kissed beach, the Rail­way­men were slog­ging through a field in the Lake Dis­trict.

De­ter­mined to dis­cover just how much pain his play­ers could take, Alex boss Steve Davis or­gan­ised a sur­prise visit to Cas­sius Camps, a gru­elling day-long train­ing ses­sion de­signed to push ath­letes to their lim­its.

And with some ten hours of ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing an as­sault course, a 3km fell run and open wa­ter kayak­ing, he cer­tainly suc­ceeded.


“The lads didn’t have a clue what was com­ing,” says Davis, whose side’s 1-0 vic­tory over Shrews­bury last week­end was their first of the sea­son.

“Af­ter we won, I said ‘Look, have Mon­day off – but make sure you’re in at 5 o’clock in the morn­ing on Tues­day’. All I told them is that we’d be go­ing off in a minibus for the day and wouldn’t be back un­til 9 o’clock at night. They all thought I’d gone mad!”

Af­ter a two-hour jour­ney and 8am break­fast, Davis wisely chose to stay on the side­lines as his play­ers were put through their paces by in­struc­tor Phil Er­colano.

“You’re set dif­fer­ent men­tal and phys­i­cal chal­lenges to push you to the edge and see how you re­act,” ex­plains Davis. “Will you keep push­ing and get through it? Or will you give up? I wanted to find out if I knew my play­ers as well as I thought I did. I’d al­ready spo­ken for a cou­ple of hours on the phone to Phil, the or­gan­iser, and told him how I thought in­di­vid­u­als would per­form. And when the play­ers were asked to fill in forms ask­ing them to rate var­i­ous qual­i­ties, it did tally.

“In the event though, one or two sur­prised me. Some pushed them­selves more than they thought they could, oth­ers thought they’d do bet­ter.

“All of them ac­tu­ally made great im­prove­ments as the day wore on. They showed me that I had more lead­ers than I thought.”

At the end of the ses­sion, the 15 play­ers were ranked in a league ta­ble. The win­ner? Step for­ward 23-year-old de­fender Ol­lie Tur­ton.

“Ol­lie came top, so he’s ob­vi­ously been din­ing out on that all week,” adds Davis. “But it was very close.We had a lot of high per­form­ers when they ranked us against other peo­ple who’d done the course.

“It’s great for play­ers to see their mates tested. If they’ve seen some­one go through that and stick it out, they know they can rely on them come Satur­day af­ter­noon.”

Davis – ap­pointed in 2011 and cur­rently the sev­enth-long­est serv­ing man­ager in English football – hopes his side’s new-found men­tal tough­ness can be turned into points af­ter a des­per­ately un­con­vinc­ing start.

And he has thanked his board for keep­ing his side’s trou­bles in per­spec­tive.


“Ev­ery­one re­mem­bers Dario Gradi, who had three rel­e­ga­tions and three pro­mo­tions,” says the for­mer Nantwich boss. “He al­ways said he couldn’t have done it with­out a solid board be­hind him and I’m the same.

“They’ve been to­gether for a long time and they get it. We’ve got a small bud­get, prob­a­bly the low­est in the league. And they’re re­al­is­tic about where we should be.

“Yes, we all want to do bet­ter. We’re striv­ing to be a team that com­petes, not just sur­vives. But we’ve got to stick with the young lads. That’s what’s al­ways brought suc­cess here and I still think this can work for us.”

PIC­TURES: Chris West Pho­tog­ra­phy

OAR-SOME RIDE: The squad also took part in open wa­ter kayak­ing LONG SLOG: De­fender Ol­lie Tur­ton, left, was the top per­former on the day

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