Gerry Taggart

Gerry Taggart’s Pre-Season: Hill Runs & Psychological Benefits

Having spent nearly two decades as a professional footballer, Gerry Taggart would always reap the physical and psychological benefits of a collection of diverse pre-season schedules.
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Taggart’s 19-year career consisted of spells spent at six different football clubs, including six seasons at the Foxes, where he lifted the League Cup in 2000 under Martin O’Neill.

It was under his fellow countryman that Taggart experienced some of his most challenging pre-season campaigns, with fitness work often at the top of the agenda upon returning from a summer break.

“For me, like a lot of players, it was probably the most difficult part of being a professional footballer, but it was necessary,” said Taggart.

“I always looked forward to getting back into the Football Club after the summer break and you knew that for one whole month, if not longer, you were going to be put through your paces.

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Gerry Taggart
Gerry Taggart

Gerry Taggart undergoes pre-season testing alongside City team-mates Tony Cottee and Arnar Gunnlaugsson.

“It was a necessary evil, so you just got your head down and got through it. What that did was get your brain back on that focus line where you needed to be before the season started. It was also good psychologically, as well as the physical benefits.

“You always try and come in at a decent weight because that was played upon heavily. There were your fitness levels as well, you didn’t want to be lagging behind coming in and being at the back of the queue.

“Realising what you were going to be put through in pre-season sometimes made you a bit apprehensive, especially when you’ve done three or four days’ hard work and then at the end of the week, you’re doing a timed hill run, which when your body is aching already, isn’t what you wanted to hear.

“You were all in the same boat, and it was a good way of bonding the team as well.”

Realising what you were going to be put through in pre-season sometimes made you a bit apprehensive, especially when you’ve done three or four days’ hard work.

Gerry Taggart LCFC.com

It was the variety of pre-season routines that Taggart felt helped him and his team-mates through an unenviable period of time where gruelling fitness sessions dominated the early weeks of pre-season.

“One of the hardest [pre-seasons] I’ve ever done was under Martin O’Neill here,” said Taggart. “There were a lot of hill runs, races almost.

“They were pretty hard, but they were varied as well, which I suppose helps you get over thinking about the hard work if it’s going to be varied. That was an important thing and it helped us get through it.”

Taggart says there are different kinds of fitness, and while he would often finish in the middle of the group when it came to running, he would be one of the most impressive in cardiovascular exercises such as rowing.

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Peter Taylor and Gerry Taggart
Peter Taylor and Gerry Taggart

The former Northern Ireland defender says pre-season differed slightly depending on which manager was in charge of the Foxes.

“I used to be on the rowing machine – myself and Emile Heskey,” said the City legend. “When it came to running, you’re talking about Muzzy Izzet, Steve Guppy and Emile Heskey.

“It was a case for the likes of myself making sure that I wasn’t at the back! The little tricky winger types were always up there, but in the rowing, I’d always come top of the tree.”

For Taggart, heading abroad for pre-season trips resulted in intense training camps which allowed fitness staff to spend lengthy periods of time with players to ensure they are in peak condition for the campaign ahead.

The coaching staff can have their wicked way with you for a week and in between that, you get to play against some decent football clubs as well.

Gerry Taggart LCFC.com

Taggart added: “In the mid ‘90s, when I was at Bolton, we started going abroad and that carried on. I’ve been to various countries including Portugal and Scandinavian countries as well – Finland was a good trip. I’ve been to the Austrian alps and places like that.

“It gives you a chance to get away and have double sessions every day. Clubs do it because you’re in an environment at a hotel with a training complex nearby.

“The coaching staff can have their wicked way with you for a week and in between that, you get to play against some decent football clubs as well, who are also on their pre-season.

"I remember one year at Stoke, we played against Roma in Austria. That was an interesting trip.”

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