Raising The Bar

West Ham have introduced a monthly award at their Chadwell Heath training ground - and sports scientist Tony Strudwick says the benefits are valuable.

Explaining the awards, Tony says:

"The manager is very keen on creating a training culture where players do extra - the place has changed slightly and it is all about generating a motivated working environment.

"In addition to that we have got a bit of competition between the lads with what I call a 'raise the bar' award, which is given to those players that go above and beyond what they do on the field, and runs every month.

"There are three little awards for a bit of fun - but it is also recognition for the extra work that is put in by the players.

"It is just a motivational tool to get the players to do the additional work that is required in the modern game today.

"Christian Dailly won the latest award, Steve Bywater got one for the young players, and the most improved award went to Andy Melville, who, prior to coming to the club, hadn't really got into weights conditioning.

"Obviously he is a very fit man in terms of aerobic work but had done limited work in terms of body conditioning - but has taken it on board massively and even got a mention from his wife who seemed to think that his muscles had got bigger.

"Power lifting and core strength work is something that Alan was big on at Reading - and hopefully our philosophy here is along those lines because the way the modern game has evolved it is important to do that bit extra at the higher levels.

"With playing so many games in the year, sometimes it is difficult to do that extra, and in this country it can tend to be 'play-rest-play-rest' but when there are periods when you can get them into the gym and strengthen them and make them right for football it is important."

Explaining his thoughts further, Tony says:

"I always say it is about making them right for football in the gym rather than the football making them right - it is about getting fit to play rather than getting your fitness FROM playing.

"It is a double-edged sword in this division because the games come thick and fast and we have been playing two games a week for the last five or six weeks.

"Nevertheless, what we have got now is making the most of our facilities and hopefully that can transfer into a more sustained performance throughout the year."

The players are enjoying competing for the monthly award and Tony concludes:

"The lads have taken to it marvellously and there is a competitive edge there.

"One thing you can guarantee with footballers is that they are always competitive and hopefully it will mean something to those who get the actual trophy."