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New regime at Hillsborough

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Michael Gray | 23:00 UK time, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Happy New Year to everyone - I hope you all had a good festive period. It seems a long time since my last blog and a long time since I last played a game, unfortunately.

We've got a new manager at Sheffield Wednesday and I think Alan Irvine is a great appointment for the club. Alan was named as the new gaffer last Friday and the players got to meet him for the first time the following day.

We had been set for a weekend off because the snow and ice caused so many postponements but the manager wanted to get us all out on the training ground as quickly as possible.

Before training, we had a meeting at which he came across really well. It was very positive and he certainly had everybody's attention when he was speaking - and that bodes well for the future because the club have clearly appointed someone who is very hungry.

Alan was in probably one of the safest jobs in English football as assistant to David Moyes at Everton but he had ambitions to be a manager and left to be Preston boss in 2007. He did a great job there and, in my eyes, Preston's loss is Wednesday's gain.

I knew Alan from his Everton days and a few of our players know the lads at Preston so we've also had feedback from them on what he's like, about his training sessions and the way he treats players and all of it has been good.

To be honest, from what I've seen so far, everything that I heard before seems totally true. He is a gentleman and his coaching so far has been great; very enjoyable and probably something different to what the lads have had in the past.

It's easy to say it but I am sure good results will follow. He had a tall order when he started at Preston but they won nine out of 14 games to secure safety and then went on to get into the play-offs the next season.

We have to set ourselves up in a similar way and achieve the targets the new manager has set us between now and the end of the season. I'm not saying what those targets are but they have certainly helped us focus on the training ground and that should translate into getting the results we need on matchdays.

Alan IrvineAlan Irvine has a local derby against Barnsley for his first game in charge at Hillsborough

Alan is certainly a training ground manager, he's not the kind who is happy to sit in an office while his coaching staff do the work. He is very hands-on and gets his points across in his own way, which he has obviously done throughout his career as a top coach in the Premier League.

The new gaffer has also made a point of having individual meetings with all the players. At this point I haven't had my meeting with him - he's doing it in squad number order and with me being number 33 that pretty much puts me at the back of the queue!

Sean McAuley did a really good job as caretaker boss and he has obviously spoken with Alan quite a bit to explain some of the situations in the club and the expectations here. The players have thanked Sean for what he did in the interim period and he is still a vital part of this club going forward as our academy manager.

The last game I played was at Leicester in mid-December because of injury and illness, so I won't have played for a month the next time I pull on the blue and white stripes. It has been a very frustrating month personally and I seem to have picked up far more bugs than is good for me too.

Since being back in training last week, we have all had to top up our fitness levels because we need to be ready for the tough run-in that we have coming up.

Five or six of the lads at Sheffield Wednesday live on the other side of the Pennines so we got stuck last week. We usually drive over the Woodhead Pass but when we tried getting in last Monday morning we found that nearly every road was closed off.

There were cars parked all over the road and we had to turn around and go back home for our own safety. Training was cancelled for a couple of days because of the snow but we certainly made up for it in the days that we managed to get in.

Last week's bleep and yoyo tests certainly took a toll. Players never look forward to this but it's a stamina test that you have to put yourself through three or four times a season.

For the bleep test, everyone lines up between two lines of cones, about 20 yards apart. You have to run between the cones to the time of the bleeps and those bleeps come quicker and quicker every time so you have to run quicker and quicker as you go. You basically run until you can't run any more.

The yoyo test is similar, but more like doing shuttle runs. Every time you do a shuttle run you get an eight second rest and then you have to go again. A beep tells you when you have to be at a certain point, running at a certain speed and, again, you pretty much run until you drop.

There is no way of cheating these tests because we all wear heart rate monitors. We all have to reach our maximum heart rate during the test and if a player were not to reach that level our fitness coach would pick up on it and the player would end up having to redo the test. These tests are never easy but the lads gave it a real good go and we saw some pretty good results.

We have a very tough run of games from now until the end of the season so we have to hit the ground running in our next one. There are no easy games and we need to get points on the board so let's hope 2010 is a good year for us.

The number of games called off because of the weather recently has been quite incredible. Most years you get the odd game called off in a season but it's pretty rare to have so many fall to the weather. It means there will soon be a fixture pile-up and when you don't have a large squad it is vital everyone is at the peak of fitness.

Everybody has to be ready because all of our players will probably be called upon at some point between now and the end of the season. We're raring to go and it's good to know everyone's fitness levels are right up there.

It has been a strange period because as footballers, you are always told by managers how important the Christmas period is because there are usually loads of games in a short period of time, but we've only played one league game since Christmas and that was on Boxing Day against Newcastle.

Now we are set for five games in a fortnight so we will have to treat late January as our 'Christmas period' and hopefully it will be a fruitful one.

We kick-off with a South Yorkshire derby at Barnsley for the new manager's first game and everyone is ready to get down to business.

Comments

  • 1. At 11:54pm on 13 Jan 2010, wednesdaymorgs wrote:

    Good to have you back, was beginning to wonder today that it had been a while since your last blog! Although you're unwilling to say what Alan's made our targets for the season I'm guessing it's a tight home record, a solid January and 53 points for survival. It will be interesting to see what team Alan puts out on Saturday and how the players respond to him. As you said what's Preston's loss is certainly our gain, although it seems Brian's sacking could be the best thing to have happened to him too!! Quite a bizarre appointment but most Wednesday fans wish him all the best. Here's hoping for a solid start to the 2010 championship fixtures against Barnsley in what is a huge huge month for us.

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  • 2. At 00:22am on 14 Jan 2010, Feel MaDullTie wrote:

    Alan Irvine was very unlucky to be sacked from Preston. He was just on a bad run of results, but unfortunately managers are not given time any more to turn things round.

    I think Irvine is the right man for the job at Hillsborough and did brilliantly helping Moyes at Everton. However not all assistants make good managers (Kidd, Quieroz, McLaren). I think he needs to have a bit of a clearout and get rid of players like Jeffers who seems to have lost interest in football several years ago. How many goals has he got since he joined Arsenal. Has he got into double figures?

    Laws has landed firmly on his feet at Burnley but may have only got the job as no compensation had to be paid. Burnley's chairman seems reluctant to spend any money.

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  • 3. At 00:41am on 14 Jan 2010, Owl_n_Hunter wrote:

    Good to hear from you again, with another good blog. The recent weather must be just as frustrating as being injured if not more so, all geared up to go to training and then finding yourself unable to go, I know personally ( and ok i only play 5-a-side for a bit of fun) when it get cancelled due to unplayable conditions i feel worse then when I'm injured and cant play.
    Also iv heard that Alan is a man who resorts self belief in his players have you found yourself regaining that confidence, or is that something that comes when you get a new manager as your way to drive yourself into his plans?
    Anyway hopefully this can be a good year for the blue and white wizards and Alan can produce the magic he created at Preston.
    Good luck Michael, hope to see you reeling in those 3 points for us

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  • 4. At 06:42am on 14 Jan 2010, blackcatG wrote:

    Another good read, I have been following your blog for a couple of months now and am a Sunderland fan currently staying in South Africa. I would like to wish you all well for the rest of the season. how do you think Brian Laws will do at Burnley? it seems like a strange appiontment to me and one that seems as though they are preparing themselves for life in the Championship next season.

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  • 5. At 08:21am on 14 Jan 2010, kirstie wrote:

    Your goal against Preston this season will do you no harm in Alans team selection, i would like to see you on the left side at some stage this season, Brian Laws is interesting appointment what do you think? By the way the bleep tests are really good who was the first to go out? and who was the last man standing please? UP THE OWLS

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  • 6. At 09:00am on 14 Jan 2010, danielchown wrote:

    What level did you achieve in the bleep test Michael?

    Who were the top 5 / bottom 5 performers?

    I'm not very good at it as I'm a bit of a beer monster myself.

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  • 7. At 09:49am on 14 Jan 2010, horgan88 wrote:

    What did you get in the bleep test? What was the average? What was the best?

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  • 8. At 09:54am on 14 Jan 2010, Cyril wrote:

    It's nice to see another blog up again, it seems an age since you've had one up.

    It seems Brian Laws was sacked at a decent time really, and Wednesday have got lucky that someone like Irvine became available. Preston we're silly to sack him, and i'm sure that Wednesday will reap the rewards now they've appointed him.

    I wish him, you and Sheffield Wednesday all the best for the rest of the season. Last thing I want to see is a Yorkshire club relegated. Hopefully Reading will take your place in the relegation zone.

    Although Reading played really well last night against Liverpool I think their cup run can only be seen as a good thing from your point of view. Cup runs do tend to have an effect on League form it seems, I know theirs hasn't been great but hopefully it'll stay that way.

    With a new manager in, what sort of pressure if any, is there on the players to get that first result?

    Keep up the blogs, they're always good reading.

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  • 9. At 10:40am on 14 Jan 2010, R Nair wrote:

    Another half-baked round of managerial musical chairs:

    • Owen Coyle moves from Burnley to Bolton Wanderers
    • Brian Laws, previously of Sheffield Wednesday, takes over at Burnley
    • Alan Irvine, sacked by Preston North End, takes over at Sheffield Wednesday.
    • Darren Ferguson, previously with Peterborough United, appointed manager by Preston North End.

    In a different chronological order of course.

    http://footballinsights.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/manager-go-round-a-complete-circle/#comment-591

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  • 10. At 11:18am on 14 Jan 2010, Chris wrote:

    hey mickey, good to hear from you again, gota say the FA cup 3rd round was one of the worst performances ive seen.Hoping Alan can help get the team going the right way, who came top 3 in the shuttle and bleep test? and is there a forfit for coming last? and lastly what are your thoughts on Brian ending up at Burnley?

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  • 11. At 11:46am on 14 Jan 2010, bobren wrote:

    " Another half-baked round of managerial musical chairs:

    • Owen Coyle moves from Burnley to Bolton Wanderers
    • Brian Laws, previously of Sheffield Wednesday, takes over at Burnley
    • Alan Irvine, sacked by Preston North End, takes over at Sheffield Wednesday.
    • Darren Ferguson, previously with Peterborough United, appointed manager by Preston North End. ".....................

    So, by extrapolation, the good Burghers of Peter have a certain Mr Gary Megson to look forward to ! ?? Good Luck them !

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  • 12. At 11:50am on 14 Jan 2010, bobren wrote:

    ...............or has the Chairman removed that one ?

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  • 13. At 12:36pm on 14 Jan 2010, deano wrote:

    Alan Irvine's blue and white army...

    That'll have to be the first song chanted @ Barnsssssssley on sat'day.

    Point now is: Irvine's here, so lets get behind him and get our beloved Wednesday going in the right direction, he will be judged after X amount of games and whether we are better off than we are now.

    Also and vital is that the players must rise to the appointment and occasion straight away and play for their shirts or basically 'get gone' elsewhere.

    ps. Good luck Brian...(the life of)

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  • 14. At 12:52pm on 14 Jan 2010, blue_haze wrote:

    Yeah come on Michael- tell the truth: did you lose the bleep test cos you're an old git?

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  • 15. At 1:08pm on 14 Jan 2010, RubberNutz wrote:

    Nothing to say about Brian Laws? Congratulations perhaps? Interesting.

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  • 16. At 4:13pm on 14 Jan 2010, mackem_in_exile wrote:

    You describe Alan Irvine as a training ground manager. Which managers that you have worked with over the (many) years have also been realn training ground men? And are there any managers you have worked with who have not spent a lot of time around training, but still been successful?

    Good luck for the rest of the season, hope there a few more of these interesting blogs to come.

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  • 17. At 5:06pm on 14 Jan 2010, Harmy wrote:

    Hi Micky

    Great to see back on here, your blogs are brilliant and I very much enjoy reading them every week!

    I am a big fan of yours and admire the way you put yourself about on the pitch. You always give 100% and it’s nice to see someone with so much passion and commitment, not only for football but for Wednesday too.

    I know things have been tough recently but I’m sticking with you all the way and I’m sure things will change for the better soon. January is a big month though, hope to see you back playing. I am delighted with Alan’s appointment and wish all those involved all the best.

    I noticed that you travel over the Snake Pass or Woodhead to get over to Sheffield but imagine it’s been a bit tricky lately with all the snow. As you mentioned you sometimes go to a hotel for something to eat, I thought I’d let you know of a good little place I have stayed at that you might like to try. It’s tucked away at the foot of the Snake Pass opposite the golf course and I’m sure they could sort you out with a meal as well! It’s nice and quiet and out of the way, perfect for a bit of R&R.

    Let’s hope things will turn round soon and there’s no better place to start than Barnsley. Good luck with the rest of the season, I’ll be supporting you all the way and keep up the great blogs.

    Cheers Micky

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  • 18. At 5:43pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 1

    Happy new tear to you.

    Yes we have to hit the ground running straight away and we have a great game against barnsley to get the ball rolling so to speak.

    Training has been great so far so lets hope we take it into the games coming up.

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  • 19. At 5:47pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 2

    I cant speak about what goes on at burnley but im sure brian will do a great job there and lets hope our new gaffa does the same for wednsday. Hes enthusiastic and wants to be a winner wich is exactly what we need in charge at this great club.

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  • 20. At 5:50pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 3

    Yes i think you can see the confidence flowing back through the players so now we have to make sure we take it to the games with us. From what i have seen so far i am very impressed.

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  • 21. At 5:53pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 4

    Hello there, Thanx for the best wishes.

    I think only time will tell whether brian does a good job or not but i wish him all the very best.
    He was great to me from the moment i walked through the door at wednsday and i really do hope he can keep burnley in the premiership.

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  • 22. At 5:56pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 5

    Hi Kirstie,

    Lets hope our new gaffa doesnt hold it against me for scoring against his old club, haha.

    Im not sure who went out of the bleep test first but i do know was last man standing. ME!!!
    Theres still life in the old dog yet. Although i was sick at the end of it.

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  • 23. At 6:01pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 6

    The top 5 was Me,james o connor, tommy spurr, lewis buxton and sean mcalister.

    Not sure who went out first but jj will have been close or maybe one of our keepers although granty is very fit for a keeper.

    I got to level 24 wich is very tough.

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  • 24. At 6:03pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 7

    Hello there

    It was a yoyo test wich is a little diffrent to a bleep test but very hard just the same.

    Everyone did great and the average was around level 22 so the fitness coach was very happy.

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  • 25. At 6:07pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 8

    Well when a new manager walks through the door the slate is clean. everybody is out to impress him.
    So you can imagine how intense the training has been this week. We all want to be in the starting eleven and it will be a tough decision for the gaffa but that can only be a good thing.

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  • 26. At 6:11pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 10

    The top three were Myself james o connor and lewis buxton.

    There were no forefits as the lads all did great and the fittness coach was very happy with the results.

    Really pleased for brian and russ and i hope he keeps burnley in the premiership.

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  • 27. At 6:15pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 14

    Never been out of the top two in my whole career in the bleep test and thats the truth.
    I think it was being videoed for the website when we did it so take a look and you will see who won.

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  • 28. At 6:18pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 15

    I wrote a blog saying thankyou to brian and i also spoke and txt him saying exactly the same thing.
    He read my blog and thanked me for it.
    I have a great relationship with him and hope he does well in his new job.
    What else would you like me to do???

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  • 29. At 6:22pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 16

    Ive been lucky in that respect.
    Peter reid was very hands on but also listened to what his coaches had to say also.
    Martin o neil wouldnt get involved to much but we all know what a great manager he is.
    He gets his point across in a diffrent way and it works just fine. top top manager.

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  • 30. At 6:25pm on 14 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 17

    Thankyou for the comments and lets hope its a good year for us.

    Might have to try that hotel if i ever get stuck over in sheffield.

    Take care and keep cheering us on.

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  • 31. At 8:23pm on 14 Jan 2010, Harmy wrote:

    Micky - Reply to No 17 ^
    The one I was thinking of is actually in Glossop, just as you drop down from the hills. Definately recommend it.
    Just out of interest, where abouts do you go when your in Sheffield?
    Any good places I could try?

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  • 32. At 00:13am on 15 Jan 2010, vivamexico wrote:

    Michael,

    You need to help get the players behind the new manager. Without a serious committment from every man, it will look the same come May as it does now.

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  • 33. At 3:14pm on 15 Jan 2010, adie1985 wrote:

    Excellent blog again. I have just completed the bleep test at the school I work at, and thought after the Christmas break it would be worth a bash, with no football games being on at the level I play at! Unfortunatley, mustering up a measley 11.2, and being beaten by a 13yr old boy, did do my street cred any good!

    So for the sake of my students and understanding their heart rate and so on: what details could you give me on your resting heart rate, your optimal heart rate that you run at, and your completion heart rate - before you felt slightly queasy!

    Good luck for the weekends game and the rest of the season.

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  • 34. At 3:35pm on 15 Jan 2010, adie1985 wrote:

    That is meant to say *Didnt do my street cred any good*.... not using spell checker I'm sure will do the same....

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  • 35. At 11:36pm on 16 Jan 2010, Louisa wrote:

    Good to see you back on the pitch today and wow !!! what an afternoon , absolutely brilliant !!! Fantastic stuff you lot, bring on Tuesday :-)

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  • 36. At 2:57pm on 17 Jan 2010, Tom wrote:

    I'm just wondering what the average bleep test and yoyo test results were for the majority of players.

    And do you have these tests often? It seems like alot of the championship clubs are focusing alot more on fitness now(Which is a good thing).

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  • 37. At 7:12pm on 17 Jan 2010, german_owl wrote:

    Hi Mickey,

    this is the german lad from the steam room - do you remember??
    Wish you and the whole team a great year 2010.
    I followed everything that went on at Hillsborough the last weeks.
    It was a typical development in football. You're not winning over a couple of weeks and it is only a matter of time that the manager is being sacked. Not because Brian made big mistakes, but just to have a different and new momentum.
    Good to see that it worked out in the first match for Alan and the team.
    Very very important win this 2-1 at Barnsley.
    Congratulations.
    Of course my friends and me are also happy to see you playing again after this long period. That paid out too by crossing the ball for the first goal. Well done!!!
    Seeing you playing against Cardiff end september made us dreaming of more than being down in the relegation area, but now you have really a hard piece of work in front of you.
    We here in Bochum cross our fingers and which you all what is needed to end the season in a more comfortable zone.
    We stay tuned - til the next time
    Tara
    Ernst

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  • 38. At 3:28pm on 18 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 31

    Thanx for letting me know about the hotel.

    I dont really stay around sheffield much as i live in manchester so couldnt tell you where to go sorry.

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  • 39. At 3:32pm on 18 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 33

    Thats not a bad score after the christmas period.

    Everybodys heart rates are diffrent so you have to work to the maximum your body can take you to. Otherwise the test is useless and you will get a false reading of how fit you are.
    Minimum heartrate before you start will be around 70-80 then will rise the harder the test gets. my maximum is around 195 so i have to keep going until i reach that.

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  • 40. At 3:36pm on 18 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 35

    Thankyou.

    I thought that was the best performance of the season so far and what a time to happen.
    Effort, commitment and full of spirit and desire.
    The fans were amazing. You never stopped singing all the way through and it seemed to spurr us on. keep it up on the terraces and we will keep it up on the pitch.

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  • 41. At 3:38pm on 18 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 36

    The average on a bleep test is around the 14.5 mark and for the yoyo test its around 21/22. both very hard if you do them right and the lads here did really well in them.

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  • 42. At 3:40pm on 18 Jan 2010, Michael Gray wrote:

    reply to no 37

    Nice to hear from you again.
    Yes it was a great start under alan and lets hope it continues.

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