Peter Houston is pleased with how Falkirk players have kept in shape over the close season.
The Bairns returned to pre-season a week ago, and the management and coaching staff utilised the sports scientists at Stirling University to assess the players on day two of pre-season training.
Missing on day one, which was a light session last Thursday at The Falkirk Stadium were Lee Miller, David McCracken, Tom Taiwo, Peter Grant and Craig Sibbald. However all have travelled to the Bairns’ Irish training camp at Johnstown in Enfield near Dublin.
Before they left the Bairns had double sessions at the Stadium on Monday and Tuesday and met Bray Wanderers at new Carlisle Park last night.
The testing will be revisited during the season to ensure the Bairns are, and remain, in the best possible shape for their Championship challenge.
“It gives us a base to work from,” explained the boss. “If it shows some people are lacking in specific areas then we work with those players needing conditioned.
“You can look at people and tell they’ve looked after themselves during the summer.
“They go through the yo-yo test, bleep test – both running tests, a hamstring test, standing jump test.
“We do it twice a season. We do it around the turn of the year and they’ll be retested on their body fat and their tests, but they know that and the players always look after themselves.
“Saturday we did a morning session, Sunday was off and Monday and Tuesday it was double sessions and it was off to Ireland [yesterday].
“It’s a great facility last year. Johnstown House. The players enjoyed it, we go for the right amount of days, there’s no boredom – it’s right on the outskirts of Dublin.
“There’s actually a European match on Thursday with Shamrock Rovers and Pat Fenlon is manager there, so we might head along to the game together.
“It’s good to get the new players interacting with the players who are already here, and we’ll take it on.”
The trip is not only a physical test for the players as they increase intensity ahead of the new season, it’s also a chance for the new players to integrate, and for the manager to assess how they handle themselves in a group commended throughout last season as a united squad.
“They get to know each other, and that’s where you form your camaraderie for the season,” added Houston.” That’s where you build the unity in the squad, and that’s something we have here – we had a lot of it last season. It’s up to the boys we’ve brought in to do that but they should be able to easily. That’s another first impression from day one - they have already.
“I noticed [the team bond] early on last season and that’s a reason I wanted to go back to Johnstown, from day one over there in our patterns of play and shaping up everyone has a responsibility and one thing about the team last season in the whole squad was they took their responsibilities on very well, and tried to build on it.
“Hopefully the players take it on board – if they don’t they won’t be in the team!”
Lewis Kidd, James Craigen, Liam Henderson and Luca Gasparotto have come in from last season, while the likes of Blair Alston, Graham Bowman and David Smith have moved.
“We have less numbers but what we have so far is more competition for first team places – guys I can rely on. If Muirhead was injured last season I had to play Vaulks at right back or even Blair Alston, and that’s not an ideal scenario, so Lewis Kidd, Liam Henderson and the other guys give competition to the other guys.
We have strength in depth, at centre back. Peter comes back in September, we have Luca, Paul Watson and David McCracken. That’s four for two spots now, we had two for two last season at times so that gives us more strength in depth in the first team squad.”