Rotherham United: New era at Roundwood for Warne's Millers
Eleven days until the pain begins.
Rotherham United return for pre-season training a week on Thursday.
New training-ground facilities, new regime under manager Paul Warne and backroom team Richie Barker and Matt Hamshaw, new levels of suffering.
Warne, the former fitness coach appointed manager towards the end of last season, has promised it will hurt as he looks to make his men the best-conditioned squad in League One.
Three sessions a day and the end of the old collection of portable cabins will greet the players when they report back to their Roundwood base on June 29. By August, everything should be operating from one purpose-built, communal building as off-site trips for things like gymnasium work and team meals are consigned to the past
Coach Hamshaw has been the man on the ground for the Millers this summer, fitting regular visits to Roundwood around his recruitment duties to oversee the erection of the new structure.
“It’s a busy time of the year for coaches and managers,” he told The Star. “There’s contact with agents, we’ve been speaking to players and there’s the development of the training ground.
“That’s coming on tenfold now. I’ve been down there every day making sure what gets put into place is what we want.
“I’ve been down there explaining, on the football side of things, what we need. Warney and Richie are really keen on having everybody in one area.
“Logistically, it was a nightmare previously, when we had lots of areas around Rotherham we were using for different things.
“Having everything together will give us more time to work with the players. And it builds togetherness that little bit more when everyone’s in the same place.
“It’s all going to be under one roof - gym, eating facilities, changing rooms, analyst’s room, manager’s office etcetera. Everything we need will be in one area.
“It should all be ready for the start of the season. Obviously, there will be one or two adjustments here and there, but it seems like it’s all on track.”
At least four new faces should be there for day one, with centre-half Michael Ihiekwe and midfielder having already joined Rotherham and midfield man Ryan Williams and striker David Ball expected to be confirmed as signings this week.
A bid has also gone in for a goalscorer who has excelled at non-league level.
“I can’t wait to be back,” Hamshaw said. “Pre-season is the time to build that camaraderie that’s so important to teams. No pre-season is ever easy. And it certainly won’t be for the lads this year.
“It’s important we get through the hard work together and make sure we come out of it firing.
“As a player, I enjoyed the football side. I wasn’t as keen without a ball! But some coaches would say I could never run anyway! It’s a crucial part of the season.
“On the other side of it now, as a coach, you see how important it is in terms of getting a basis for how you want to play. You’re doing it with no points on offer, so you can tinker with things a little bit more, implement things in training. It gives you more of an idea of the way you want to go.
“We have identfied the way we want to play. It’s going to be enjoyable putting it into the lads because I think they will enjoy playing the way we want them to play.
“There is nobody in a better position than Warney to give an opinion on the fitness side of pre-season. As an ex-fitness coach, he knows the ins and outs of it.
“Richie and I have done numerous pre-seasons. We’ve sat down and had numerous meetings about the things that we think will work and won’t work. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be enjoyable and we’ll get across our messages to the players.”
Centre-half Richard Wood, having signed a new one-year deal, will be undergoing his fourth round of pre-season toil in Millers colours and knows full well that this one will be tougher than any other.
His face is, almost comically, a mix of fear and distate in equal measure when the six weeks between the end of June and opening day come up for discussion.
“It’s going to be hard,” he said. “But it will also be enjoyable.”
He believed only half of that.