Training secrets of the worlds greatest footballers: How science is transforming the modern game

09 October 2019 Ben Cartwright football, sportscience, soccer, fitness

It was with great pleasure that a copy of ‘Training Secrets of the World’s Greatest Footballers’ by James Witts landed at Football Fitness Federation headquarters as it was a title I’d been looking forward to reading since I saw its announcement on Twitter. With so many contributions from the most respected Sports Scientists and Coaches in the game it was always going to be high on the ‘must read’ list and it certainly didn’t disappoint.


The first thing that strikes you about the book is that it’s both extremely well researched and very easy to read (I’ve come across many books in this subject area that are extremely hard going and should come with a warning that it may not be suitable for those without a doctorate in certain scientific area). It must be pointed out that the fact it’s so concise and simple to read it doesn’t detract from the books quality, in fact it’s strength lies with being able to explain its complex content in a simple manner that makes this publication suitable for all involved in football (not just Sports Scientist) players and coaches included.


The intention of the book is clearly illustrated from the outset, the author seeks to fill the hole between theory and application (which, I’m happy to report it does with great success). A standout line from the books introduction demonstrates its intention to produce a text that has an ‘accessible narrative that will open your eyes to footballing science, not blind you with it’. Indeed this moniker could be applied to a wider context highlighting exactly the problems faced by both practitioners and writers who can sometimes fall short when communicating the value of sports science support in developing performance in a way that’s understood by its target audience (namely those involved in playing and coaching).


The author hasn’t just decided to write masses and masses of text regarding complex biological processes or biochemical pathways like some ‘Sports Science’ books, instead concepts are skilfully segmented and accompanied by expert insight from leaders in the field of each individual area. Names like Buchheit, Bangsbo, Bradley, Burgess, Drust and many others all contribute something extra to their particular specialism and each does a great job of adding value to the book and it’s concepts.


James has done well to cover a good range of topics within the Football training sphere from the use of data to the choice of players equipment via nutrition, recovery, managing injury and of course those training methods used by the top clubs around the globe. A great contextual example is the chapter covering Barcelona and their training level of specificity (looking at Positional data and using it to inform training) with some good commentary from Paul Bradley. By maintaining a level of plain speaking language it’s surprising how easily the information can be used in all settings, which is quite unique. James ability to explore the detail that these elite practices require and still engage the reader is to be applauded.


The book also address those claims, practices or approaches that are unsubstantiated by empirical evidence but are included to give balance and insight from practical experience in a way that allows the reader to draw their own conclusions rather than drive an ‘acceptance’ of what’s been researched in labs but not on the field. No stone is left unturned the complete range from marginal gains to integration of technical and tactical training in a complete approach to training is analysed and discussed with interest.


Given how easy its was to understand I was a little surprised at the use of some language such as ‘energy systems’ and ‘by products’ in an otherwise flawless Football context. This does not in anyway detract from what is an exceptional text. What I personally enjoyed about the book was the implication of both research and practice on the future game and how players will need to adapt if they are to be prepared successfully to develop and perform in the Football matches of tomorrow. I also found the Recovery section particularly interesting, right down to the detail of bedding and sleep wear, truly remarkable.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was not only easy and engaging to read but it had me constantly looking forward to what would be revealed next the further into it I got. I certainly found it insightful and not only is it a book that can be used to inform Practice immediately, but it will also be one of those books kept on the shelf handy to be referred to time and time again.



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