Club News

Irvine uses friendly to step up fitness levels

Irvine provides Albion fitness update

ALBION hope to use a behind-closed-doors Under-21 friendly against Hull tomorrow to help increase the fitness levels of several of their summer signings.

The club have utilised the current break to good effect, with those not on international duty who missed out on a full pre-season programme undergoing double sessions daily in a bid to get up to speed, while Joleon Lescott has also been in the US undergoing a specific fitness routine.

The England defender is one of those marked down for potential involvement against the Tigers tomorrow – along with the likes of Cristian Gamboa, Silvestre Varela and Sebastian Blanco.

Georgios Samaras and James Morrison could also possibly get game time, depending on their involvement for respective nations Greece and Scotland.

Head coach Alan Irvine said: “We’ve got an Under-21 friendly here on Tuesday and I would love to be able to play players in that game who need to play. Ideally I would want to be including all of them. 

“Samaras and Morrison, it depends on what they get in the international games, the biggest blow for us is if they go away and don't play, because then we have not had them and they have not had the work that the other boys are getting back here.

“It is scheduled as an Under-21 friendly but I think with Hull's five signings on deadline day and us trying to get players bedded in, I would think it will end up being a game for a whole load of players that Steve (Bruce, Hull manager) doesn't know very well and I don't know very well. 

“It's fairly star-studded but they need it, several have not done a pre-season. There's a lot of players who need training and games and also get to need to get to know one other.”

Reflecting on the intense training of last week, Irvine added: “It was about Blanco, Silvestre, (Stephane) Sessegnon, (Brown) Ideye and Gamboa training - and then doing extra physical work each day.

“They are continually being monitored and they are going through a pre-season.

“That’s the way it is at the moment and I wish we’d had (internationals) Georgios Samaras, Jason Davidson, James Morrison and Gareth McAuley here so we could do their pre-season as well but that’s where we are.

“We’re going to do some fitness testing of a number of the players on Monday to see where they are and if we feel the results are right, that makes them closer to being selected.”

Irvine knows Albion’s current predicament – quickly and correctly getting the required fitness, technical and tactical levels into several players within his squad - is a difficult balancing act.

He acknowledges that, with each Barclays Premier League game that passes, some players will have to be put in earlier than what is considered ideal preparation – a gradual increase in game time to build up minutes on the pitch.

Yet even Irvine insists Saturday’s home clash against Everton is simply likely to come too soon for those who arrived during the latter part of the summer transfer window.

“They are in different places right now. Some might well be ready, some certainly won't be - that's for sure,” he said.

“It’s asking a lot of Silvestre Varela, Sebastian Blanco and Georgios Samaras.

“I’m hoping Cristian Gamboa is close and that Joleon Lescott will come back in good condition from the States.

“I’m also hoping James Morrison gets playing time for Scotland and comes back more ready.”