With Sunderland's impending return to training and talk of the players going to Italy for a 'boot camp', we here at Roker Report thought we'd take a look at Swindon's pre-season trip to Italy and what it entailed, thanks to the Swindon Advertiser and their tour diary.
Swindon were based at Hotel Veronello, which is near Bardolino, for two weeks between July 1 and July 14 of last year, an area Di Canio described as the 'best place in Italy'. Their hotel complex featured an outdoor swimming pool, as well as three football pitches with natural grass, an eight-a-side pitch, a five-a-side pitch and a gymnasium. Di Canio waxed lyrical about the training base but at the same time emphasized how hard the players would have to work;
The players will walk down, go in the dressing room, change and train. It's the best place to go for a pre-season. Chievo Verona used it for many years as a base so it's amazing for the players, there is something in the hotel for them to gel together.
It will help the players stick together, enjoy the moment and especially work, work, work, work, hard, hard and hard because this year will be harder than last year for sure.
Although the training camp lasted two weeks, there were only two fixtures arranged during that time. The first was against a collection of local Serie D players, managed by Di Canio's friend and manager Damiano 'Bomba' Tinelli, with the other being against Bayern Munich II.
The first game, against a Verona Select XI, was won comfortably 9-1, with Di Canio making 10 changes at half-time and a further two in the second half. The second game, which was against Bayern Munich II, was drawn 1-1 with Di Canio again making 10 changes at half-time. Notably Bayern Munich II included former Tranmere youngster Dale Jennings and Tobias Schweinsteiger, elder brother of Bayern star Bastian.
Those two games were just a distraction from the main reason for their Italian sojourn, the 'boot camp'. So let's take a look at what the Sunderland players can expect.
On the first day there was only a light training session, overseen by Di Canio and his staff, before the team settled down to watch the Euro 2012 final but that would not be the case for the rest of their stay however, with double training sessions planned for the rest of their stay.
The players were not allowed out of the hotel during the five-hour rest period between the double training sessions. Only in the evening could they leave the hotel to visit the local town, Lazise.
Every day starts with the players having breakfast before reporting to training at 9.30am for a warm up session with fitness coach Claudio Donatelli that will last at least half-an-hour. Which starts with the players limbering up while Donatelli meticulously corrects their posture, before a session of weights or a series of shuttle runs.
They would then report to Di Canio. On one day he led them on three one-minute laps of the training pitch, interspersed with 30 second breaks. Then the next day the players would have shooting practice, where the players would have to run a series of obstacles before sprinting into the area to shoot and another day would see a set of four 800m, six 600m and then a further four 600m runs.
There would also be 11-a-side drills, which focused on formation, shape and movement. Against statics defences, each team would pass the ball across the defence and midfield before the wide men supplied the strikers with chances to score. At the end of each passage of play, Di Canio would order the attacking team to drop back to cover an invisible full-back in possession.
Check out the video below for some footage of the training sessions:
Although the players had to work hard for the duration of the stay, they also came back from their trip to Italy a more closely knit bunch. From the obligatory football custom of new signings having to sing for their new team-mates, to Di Canio leading the staff and media in a game against his family and friends, a game that Di Canio was disappointed to only win 35-17, there were plenty of bonding exercises to supplement the hard training regime. A regime that Jay McEveley felt paid dividends;
I'm just starting to feel better now.
The manager kept saying to us in Italy ‘I know you're tired mentally, I know you're tired physically but you will feel better for it - trust me'.
You can feel it now, it (training) is starting to become a little bit shorter and sharper now, you feel better in your legs.
With Di Canio's recent comment about what he intends to do with the Sunderland team;
You will see the fittest Sunderland team that has ever been.
As well as the vast changes to the squad that look certain to happen, this training camp is shaping up to be absolutely crucial to Sunderland chances in the 2013/14 season. From the new players needing to bond with their team-mates, to having the fitness to implement Di Canio's high tempo game, any worries about how hard the training camp will be should disappear and be replaced with the hope that he can replicate his methods with Swindon and make us the fittest team in the league.