As Rotherham United entered the international break following victory over Bristol City just over a week ago, many would have forgiven the Millers staff and players for taking the chance to grab some much-needed rest and recouperation, ahead of a mammoth end to the season.
The weather and Covid-19 have wreaked havoc on the fixture schedule for Paul Warne’s side, meaning they have will have to play 14 games, starting from their trip to Millwall on Good Friday right through to the curtain-closer at Cardiff City on 8th May.
They could have taken ‘easy street’, as Performance Manager Ross Burbeary puts it, but this is not a team that allow their standards to drop.
At Roundwood, there is a culture of fitness. It goes from the coaching staff going out for runs ahead of games, to the medical department doing countless charity fundraisers and, of course, all stems from the first team players and their devotion to being the best versions of themselves every single day.
With this in mind, ahead of what will be a gruelling final month of the campaign, taking their foot off the gas was just not an option.
“If you speak to any player at Rotherham United Football Club, one word they will never use to describe their time here is easy,” Burbeary told www.themillers.co.uk.
“We pride ourselves on being one of the fittest clubs in the league and for us to be the fittest team in the league, we have to be the best trainers, it doesn’t just happen by coincidence on a matchday that we cover the most distance and run at the highest speed."
“It has been complex to say the least, to try and get the lads to be in the best shape possible for what we’ve foreseen as a hectic schedule.
“It is by no coincidence that they do so well, because they are so fit. That is something we pride ourselves on as I have alluded to, taking Easy Street is not going to take them to that level.
“What we’ve done this week, where we haven’t had a game, is give them a shock training load, so that they know what to expect with the fixture period coming up.
“We could have gone down Easy Street and said ‘look lads, rest and prepare yourself mentally to come into a busy period and be fresh and feel good for it’ or, we could give them a really shock training week to give them the anticipation of what is going to feel like in the next six weeks."
“We’ve done that with a really scientifically informed programme, we’ve had three days of intense training.
“I think it is testament to the staff that we have at the club that we’ve managed to put the lads in such a good place over the season, that we can give them such a heavy volume of training without any cause for concern.”
Having to play such a high volume of games in such a short space of time would prove tough for any side, but if there is one team that could make it through such a run, it’s the Millers.
As touched upon already, a culture of fitness runs right through the football club and Burbeary believes that this will give the team every chance to have their moment in sun come May.
“This is something that I have never experienced in my career, within the 15 years I’ve had in the game as a coach, sports scientist and fitness coach."
“Then again, we called the game off against Derby and we played the game the next day, I’ve never experienced that either!
“This season is just throwing out all sort of surprises and we’ve got to be one our toes for it. The one thing I can be certain of, and I have said it previously, is that we are right up there with the fittest teams in the league.
“That is not something we subjectively have an opinion on, the boys understand that, we understand it and we work too hard not to be. The facts and statistics that we get through from our providers show that we are clearly in terms of how we compare to other clubs.
“So, we are very confident that we can go into these four games in a week and give our all. Yes, there’s going to be sore bodies, yes there’s going to be a bit of pain doing so.
“Playing two games in three days is extremely difficult, not matter how fit you are, but I’m confident our lads can get through it and give us the physical outputs that we demand from them.”