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Last Updated: Friday, 14 April 2006, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Woodward leads Saints revolution
By John May

Pictures from Southampton's new training facility
Having set this up all the funding now has to be chanelled towards bringing in players for next season
Sir Clive Woodward

So what does Sir Clive Woodward actually DO at Southampton?

That is the question that many have been asking since the rugby World Cup winner officially switched codes with his appointment as Saints director of football last November.

A guided tour around Saints new 1.25m Dome training facility shows he has not been idle.

Instead, Woodward has been applying his mind to the type of truly 21st-century facility that would be scoffed at by traditionalist football dinosaurs.

Southampton's Staplewood training complex at Marchwood, on the fringes of the New Forest, was always thought to rank among the better facilities, but Woodward admitted he was "shocked" at how they compared not just to other Premiership sides, but to other sports.

So he went to work with the same attention to detail that made him a coaching legend in rugby union, using rules he says apply to any sport.

And although Southampton's new complex smacks of innovation, Woodward says: "This isn't rocket science we're doing here, we're just catching up with others."

Woodward modestly describes the complex bolted on to the indoor training facility as "simply three rooms," but they are a bit more than that.


Pictures from Southampton's new training facility
Welcome to the chill out zone

Fitted out with leather sofas, the main area of the players' lounge has a large TV screen.

A beaded curtain zones off an area with the latest computer games, while thick, tinted glass screens make a quiet room where players can nap on the loungers or chill out while watching the aquarium.

Woodward said: "All we had was the canteen and the dressing rooms, there was nowhere for the players to go after training.

"Clubs wonder why players finish training and leave the premises, there was nothing for them to stay for.

"If you're asking them to train harder, then it's only right you give them somewhere to relax.

"This room is theirs. The manager or any of the coaching staff are not allowed in here, it's their space."


Pictures from Southampton's new training facility
Woodward gets his point across in the boardroom

Ostensibly a meeting room, complete with boardroom sized table, it also contains a bank of computers along one wall which allow players to monitor their own fitness programmes as well as their peformance in matches via Prozone.

The computers also contain a programme known as an Eye Gym, set up by vision coach Cherylle Calder.

Calder is the type of person who would draw strange looks from football traditionalists, but typifies Woodward's willingness to embrace new methods.

"The eye is a muscle which needs to be exercised like any other," says Woodward.

The Eye Gym improves peripheral vision and therefore reaction time, and is so secret we were not allowed to try it.


In addition to the normal equipment, there are machines which would not look out of place in a medieval torture chamber, which tether a player as he stretches or jumps and can monitor his muscle power.

I've had resistance from some people in football, but you have to be confident in what you're doing
Sir Clive Woodward

There is a 'soft-impact' floor area which allows physios to work with players recovering from joint injuries, and most importantly for Woodward, there is direct access between the gym and the indoor football area.

The indoor football area is just under a full-size pitch, covered with the latest artificial surface.

An innovation here is a large screen on one wall which allows instant play-back of a player's technique using a camera system first developed for professional golfers.

Woodward admits: "A lot of what is done here can't be measured and in the final analysis, we win football matches because of George Burley's coaching and the players he acquires and picks.

"This isn't rocket science, and if other clubs are doing it and we're not, then we're missing out."

Since his appointment and switch from rugby, Woodward has lived with scoffing speculation regarding his methods, his role and most importantly his relationship with Saints head coach Burley.

"I was party to bringing George in to the club, so I'm hardly likely to be hunting after his job.

"Everything that's been done here has been done after consulting George and with his backing.

"I lived in Australia for five years and they set a different benchmark for sport. You see how their athletes and coaches work. There's no ridicule there, people like athletes to take chances.

"I have tried to keep away from the media because of the club, George Burley and the players. I didn't want to make headline news, especially when we weren't winning.

"I've had resistance from some people in football, but you have to be confident in what you're doing."

Woodward is similarly prepared to defend the spending of 1.25m that, as Saints were relegated from the Premiership, looked like shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Pictures from Southampton's new training facility
People think footballers scoff at stuff like this, but you would be daft to
David Prutton

"For 1.25m you couldn't sign a player who would have made a difference to our season. If this was costing 5-6m it would be a strong argument.

"But having set this up, all the funding now has to be chanelled towards George and bringing in players for next season.

"It's all about players taking personal responsibility, and it's my job to give them the opportunity to make them better players.

"It's personal choice, it's a question of how they run their life. I can't make them come here and use these facilities, but it would tell me a lot more about a player if he didn't.

"Football is a team game but you take an individual player and see if he's willing to commit himself as a professional athlete for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

"If you take all that on to a football pitch, you have a better chance of succeeding than if you don't."

But if Woodward still attracts sneers from the old guard, he has won important allies in his battle, the players.

Saints midfielder David Prutton said: "People think footballers scoff at stuff like this, but you would be daft to.

"It's so competitive you have to find ways to improve and you would be foolish to discount anything that might give an edge.

"Anything that does that is also going to prolong your career, and that's got to be good."


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