Danny Higginbotham can laugh about it now – but a decade has passed since his manager would have probably preferred to have seen him in sheer panic.
The Stoke City favourite was talking to Sam Vokes and Danny Batth about pre-season training – and when that’s the subject the conversation always ends up with reflections on the infamous sessions put on by one Tony Pulis.
Pulis has a reputation for putting his players through their paces on foot and on bike every summer, with trips to Austrian peaks a favourite.
But what to do when you’re back in the Potteries and the relative flats of Trent Vale?
Higginbotham said: “The training ground now is right up there with the best of them.
“But when Tony Pulis was our manager he wasn’t bothered in footballs for the first two weeks of pre-season. He didn’t want to see a ball. He just wanted to see the pain in players’ faces.
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“He had this big hill built at the Mich (the old Michelin Sports Ground, AKA Clayton Wood, Stoke City’s training headquarters) which is obviously now where the state of the art building is.
“He just used to find hills for us. We’d go up one day running, the next day on the bikes and it was so tough but there was no arguing with him because he got results.
“Nowadays you’d get the balls pretty much straight away, which is a lot more pleasant!”
Vokes, in a chat for Sky Sports, could certainly agree with that.
He said: “Of course! I think we have a three or four-week build into pre-season, like this period now, which is just running sessions to prepare you for getting the balls out on the first day.
“In the ball work there are disguised running sessions but there’s that element of football that comes with it as well.”
He added: “We’ve been told the date of when we might be back in and the fitness coaches have set us tasks building up to then.
“Obviously we’ve already had one of those dates that got put back and we’re working to the next one now. It’s getting ready so when we get back to the training ground we can go straight back into football.”
Danny Batth explained how the time training at home during the coronavirus crisis had been trying to strike a balance between off-season, pre-season and being ready for nine potentially massive games.
Stoke players are preparing to be called back to Clayton Wood to train in small groups – following a strict protocol – from next Monday in hope that the Championship can resume next month.
“The club has been really good,” he said. “They’ve provided us with three or four sessions a week.
“We had something like a two-week cooling off period where we had a bit of a break to give a bit of time to rest bumps and bruises. But even during that period there was the opportunity for Zoom sessions with a small group of lads. As much as everyone loves their partners and children, it’s nice to have a bit of banter with the lads in the changing room.”
He added: “You want a bit of closure on the season. We don’t know whether we’ll finish now or go back into a heated scrap at the bottom of the Championship.
“That’s got to be in the back of everyone’s mind when they’re training alone and the staff have conveyed that message to us. Just remember that as far as we know we’re going back into that and we have to be as prepared as possible to do well in those games.”