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Allison/Fenton and Zola/Clarke


John Simkin
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According to the BBC website Zola/Clarke have "... already pinpointed his squad's fitness as an area he wants to improve. I was surprised how the players tired towards the end of that game. Probably if they had not we wouldn't have lost... The last 20 minutes they went down physically and when you go down physically you also lose attention and that's why we conceded a third goal. We have already started working on that."

I have believed for sometime that West Ham are not as fit as they should be. For sometime now we have given away goals in the last 20 minutes of games. Neil in particular is clearly not fit enough to play at this level. It is good to have Clarke from Chelsea as it is a club that always performs well in the later stages of the game.

It is interesting to compare the views of Zola/Clarke with those of Malcolm Allison when he joined the club in 1951. He had come from Charlton. In his book, Colours of my Life (1975) he explained how training methods compared at the two clubs.

It was like getting into a time machine and finding yourself travelling in the wrong direction. What made things even more depressing was the fact that Charlton's trainer then was Jimmy Trotter, who also did the job for England. Trotter impressed me as a man-and as a physiotherapist. He was straight and honest and his treatment of injuries was swift and competent. But he betrayed a great ignorance of training methods. It seemed to me that he could never have given a moment's thought to the need for developing new ideas about the preparation of a professional footballer.

We were asked to jog aimlessly around the training ground. You could see boredom on every face. Training gear was ragged. It reflected the lack of thought behind our work. This may sound like the arrogance of a young man. But I felt this very strongly, and all my experience since then has confirmed my earlier viewpoint.

I used to argue with Trotter and senior players like Bert Johnson and George Smith, who went on to manage several League Clubs. I knew they had dismissed me as an upstart, a young know-all. I recall Trotter asking me sarcastically, and in front of a group of senior players, "Come on Allison, what have you got to tell us today? You always have something to say." There were titters. I was still 20 and yet to make the first team...

When I was transferred from Charlton Athletic to West Ham I led myself to hope that the futility and the bitterness was over. For a while I was happier, but it was merely the change of environment which had broken the monotony. Within six months I was more disillusioned than ever. Not only did West Ham know less about training than Charlton, a feat which I would have believed impossible, but they asked for less effort. The only difference in the training sessions were that West Ham's were shorter. The facilities were disgraceful. We used to train on a pockmarked, scruffy little track at the back of the ground. We used to have to run in and out of a copse of trees. It was impossible for the trainer to keep his eyes on all the players. If he was alert he might spot blue cigarette smoke filtering through the trees.

My relationship with the West Ham manager Ted Fenton was much closer than the one I had had with Jimmy Seed. But it was scarcely satisfactory. I did give him some problems, but they arose chiefly out of my frustration with the way the club was run. And eventually I began to run the team, with his tacit agreement. He could see that I was getting results. Player power is a phrase which has become fashionable in modern football. But it was being practiced in the West Ham dressing room 20 years ago. I began to draw up my own training schedules, and people like Phil Woosnam, Noel Cantwell, John Bond and Frank O'Farrell came in with me.

One of the first things Allison did was to bring in twice a day training sessions. Apparently, that is the samething that Zola/Clarke have done.

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