Yesterday, I got to follow up on the first ever question I asked Ange, the one at the first fan press conference where I asked him about his plans for the club’s analytics and sports science departments, which are key areas where we’ve been coming up short.
I asked him specifically about the number of injuries we’ve had in this campaign, and explained how for most Celtic fans this isn’t terribly unusual as under both Rodgers and Lennon we would often have seven or eight out at any one time.
I wondered if perhaps there wasn’t a sports science “solution” to our never ending injury list that we just weren’t pursuing.
And Ange, as he did with the initial question, answered it fulsomely and in some detail, and what he said actually made a whole lot of sense.
It may well be that we really are comparing apples with oranges when we talk about the injury issues which have plagued other managers of this club. It does seem clear that the team is fitter overall, and we recently added to the medical team. Ange confirmed that sports science is an important element of the club and that he wants us to excel at it.
But he stuck to his guns on his claim that the current crisis owes more to his style of training than anything else. It has happened to him, he says, at previous clubs so it’s not something he wasn’t expecting in this case.
His explanation for why this one is so acute is particularly interesting, especially in light of his desire to have January’s signings done quickly.
Ange lamented the lack of a proper pre-season.
He talked about how we had players coming back from the Euros. Others who returned injured. We can add to that – although he was too polite to say it – the length of time it took to hire him; he didn’t really get much opportunity to put his plans in place in advance. Then there was the time it took us to make signings.
The plans were disrupted time and again.
What we had – and still have – are players at differing stages and levels of fitness.
“We were playing catch-up right from the start,” he said, and this is so obviously true that a lot of pieces start to slide into place, such as the way certain players have struggled to get up to speed and others have picked up one niggling knock after the other.
We don’t really know what changes Ange has made behind the scenes; we can only view what is happening in front of us. And there is a lot of mitigation here as far as our injury crisis goes.
There’s not just one factor that has influenced it.
I think we have some ways to go in the sports science department, and Ange clearly agrees.
But his desire to bring players in early in January instead of having deals dragged out speaks volumes; he wants a better preparation for the second half of the season than he got with the start of it.
It makes you wonder what we’d be and where we’d be along the road if we hadn’t squandered months on the Howe pursuit and hired this guy in the first place.