Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson’s Pre-Season: Norway & Nervousness

Simon Grayson spent five years at Leicester City and played under three different managers during his time as a defender at Filbert Street.

His experiences in pre-season ranged from the snowy mountains of central Norway to the familiar surroundings of one of Leicestershire’s most resplendent public parks.

Working with former managers Brian Little, Mark McGhee and Martin O’Neill, Grayson was the first Leicester City captain to lift a trophy at Wembley.

Key to an enjoyable few years at Leicester was his pre-season preparations, which he recently reflected on during an interview with LCFC.com.

“The experiences I had with Leicester in pre-season certainly isn’t like it is today, when they go to many parts of the world,” said Grayson. “We reported back and went around Bradgate Park, where we saw a few hills up there through the forest around the Whetstone area and down by the canal.

“I think one of the only experiences I had of going away is when we went to Trondheim in Norway. We went over there, and it was some experience, even in July time. You’re up in the hills and the mountains with snow at the sides.

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Neil Lennon and Simon Grayson
Neil Lennon and Simon Grayson

The former City defender, pictured here with Neil Lennon, says much of his pre-season would be spent fulfilling fitness plans in Leicestershire.

“We were on this 52-seater bus hanging over the edge of a cliff and the lads were so happy when we got to the destination! It’s not like it is today, where you’re flown in straight away and you come straight back out.

“It was a good experience of doing it. It was under Brian Little where we went to Trondheim. Even with Martin O’Neill in the two years that I was here with him, we stayed local and played local games. It’s certainly changed around.

“Back then, it wasn’t much different between the likes of Brian Little, Mark McGhee and Martin O’Neill. They all had different ideas and might have tweaked a few things. Martin probably wasn’t around as much as other managers and that was how he conducted himself anyway, but when you were doing some running and he came out, you knew you had to up your game.”

In the previous five seasons, the Foxes have contested pre-season fixtures in Austria, Hong Kong, the United States of America, Sweden and Thailand, and Grayson believes that has assisted in the development of the Club’s profile overseas.

Players know that they have to conduct themselves and look after themselves far better now because what’s at stake with football now.

Simon Grayson LCFC.com

“I think that Leicester City now is a worldwide brand, and it made it even bigger with winning the Premier League,” he said. “That has to be expanded on and utilised to the Club’s advantage.

“They want to try and get new supporters in different areas of the world. Back then, managers may look at the cost of pre-season trips and think it could be utilised in a different way, even put towards a player for the season. That’s how tight money was in the ‘90s.

“I don’t think the logistics and methods of pre-season have changed a great deal. You do a lot of running and you do a lot of work with the ball, but you just do more travelling now, too.”

Grayson says City’s current players will benefit from specially-tailored programmes that will ensure they continue to work on their fitness over the summer.

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Simon Grayson
Simon Grayson

Simon Grayson celebrates with his team-mates after Leicester City reached the final of the 1997 League Cup.

“Going back over 20 years, pre-season was used to get fit again,” said the 49-year-old. “We didn’t have any programmes to do over the summer break, which the players certainly do have now.

“We might have done a few runs during the last week before coming back for pre-season, and there was certainly a lot of nervousness about at that time! You knew you were going to be doing the hills at Bradgate Park and all of the other long-distance runs.

“You were doing them to get fit again. Now, players are given strength and conditioning programmes and they do get their down time, but they have to make sure they’re ticking over so that they can hit the ground running as soon as they come back.

“Players know that they have to conduct themselves and look after themselves far better now because what’s at stake with football now. They have a responsibility to the Football Club and its supporters.”

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