“Prepare well lads, prepare well, make sure you’re ready.”
The words of first-team fitness coach Josh Ewens ahead of West Ham United’s second session of our Portugal training camp in the Algarve on Tuesday morning.
Ewens, a key member of manager David Moyes’ backroom staff, has an integral role to play over the next week or so, as the clock ticks down to the Hammers’ date with destiny against ACF Fiorentina in the UEFA Europa Conference League final on Wednesday 7 June.
Overseeing the start of Tuesday’s session, Ewens is his usual vibrant self, constantly preaching positive habits into the players, as the Hammers prepare for one of the biggest fixtures in the Club’s history.
Ewens, alongside his fellow fitness coaches, is responsible for getting West Ham in shape for next week’s showdown in Prague – and it’s a responsibility he is relishing.
“Finals are what we’re all in the game for,” said Ewens, speaking from the Hammers’ team hotel. “We’ve worked hard all season long for this moment – the whole team are looking forward to it now.”
Before then, however, there’s plenty of hard work ahead for Moyes’ men, as Ewens explained.
“It’s about ticking the players over and making sure, with a week or so to go, that we’re doing the right things to ensure they’re match ready come next Wednesday,” continued Ewens.
“It’s been a long, hard season – we’ve played 56 games in all competitions – so everyone has been pushed to their limits, but we’ve got a near fully-fit squad with us in Portugal and there’s a great spirit in the camp.
“The players know the importance of this game and are preparing diligently to be ready for Prague.”
A look at our first training session in the Algarve 🇵🇹 pic.twitter.com/67g0kfmSu7— West Ham United (@WestHam) May 29, 2023
So why Portugal – and what are the benefits of warm-weather training in the build-up to such a prestigious final?
“It’s good to get the players away from their day-to-day environment,” said Ewens. “It’s very rare that you get ten days to prepare for a fixture, so we felt it was beneficial to get away, even only for a few days, to break things up and give the boys a bit of a change of scenery.
“Of course the preparation is the most important thing, but there’s also a lot to be said for doing things in a different environment too, and with good weather guaranteed here, it was a great opportunity to get the boys away and prepare accordingly for what’s to come.”
With the aforementioned lengthy period between Sunday’s final fixture of the Premier League season and next Wednesday’s Conference League final against our Italian counterparts, Ewens and his team are having to strike the right balance in training, as he explained.
“Our focus is entirely on being ready for the final, but with the ten day build-up, that means finding the right balance from session-to-session.
“This week, in Portugal, will be quite light touch and fitness based, and then the closer we get to the game, we’ll revert to our usual match preparation, which has served us well so far in this competition.”