For Southampton manager Nathan Jones and his staff, this week’s winter training camp in Spain provides an invaluable opportunity to work with their new squad, as they step-up preparations for the return to competitive action.
The pause in the season due to the World Cup has provided a welcome chance for the new Saints boss to spend some significant time on the training pitch with the team, and they are taking advantage of the break by today heading out to the southern coast of Andalucía, where they will be based until Sunday.
Jones and his coaches have spent the past week working with the players at Staplewood, as they began preparing in earnest for the restart in late December, and they now intend to expand on that with some intense warm-weather training, while also using the camp as an opportunity for team bonding and to build relationships with the players."It's invaluable really,” said Jones, previewing the week ahead. “Obviously, the week we've had now has been a really good, positive week, but then to take them away has multiple positives.“One, you'll still be able to do the level of work within an enclosed environment, you get a change of scenery which is always nice and freshens the mind up, and then we'll really be able to do some bonding, have some good meetings, positive goal-setting meetings and certain things, which are really vital to the environment. Plus it gives us a real opportunity to get to know the players over a greater period of time and be around them 24/7 and that's important for us as well, because we can build real relationships.”
Jones also explained the importance to him of building those positive relationships, with trust in both directions, and how that is fundamental to his approach.“For us to demand from them, they have to see our work is good and that they can trust us and that we care about them,” he said.“This week away gives us a real opportunity, in a different environment and a different setting, because we do demand from them, we do ask them to work hard, we do ask them for different things than maybe they've done before.“To be able to do that in a real good setting, they get to see us and get to know us, and us to get to know them, plus we get to see real progress in terms of things we want to do.“We'll do similar things to what we did this week and we'll back-up that work with even more extensive work, and then the week after that will be an extension again, but to be able to do it in a beautiful setting like we're going to is good for the mind, it gives that bonding but also the most important thing is we get the work done, and we get the work done to a really high standard.”
Jones added: ”We'll work on things in and out of possession. We press in a slightly different way, so we'll want to work on that. In possession we'll look to play in a positive manner, which we've got to implement, because there are differences and subtle differences to what they've been used to.“It'll take time for them to implement that and, praise the Lord, we've got this month now where we'll really get an opportunity to work with them.”Jones, of course, has already taken charge of one game, coming in little more than 24 hours before last month’s Premier League match away to Liverpool, which was the final fixture before the pause in the season.While there was effectively no preparation time ahead of that game for him, he is in no doubt that the knowledge he was able to gather from it will serve him and his staff, and ultimately the players, well.“Like I've said, it was a big gamble for us to come in after a day to take the Liverpool game, but certain things we saw there will stand us in good stead,” he said. “We're glad we did it, because we did learn lots about the squad, about ourselves and the group as a whole. Now, we have to back that up.
“This week has been a really positive one. The reaction we've had with the players has been outstanding. We want to back that up again next week. We'll get a few more back, because we've had a few injuries, so they're filtering back in and by the time we come back from Spain we should have a real strong group and that will bode well leading into the games we've got coming up.”Jones and his staff also made sure to use the time in between the Liverpool match and the players returning for training to the best effect.“We were able to come in and bond with the staff at the stadium and training ground, and really get our bearings and make a plan for this week to run smoothly and we've really been able to come in and hit the ground running,” he said.“We asked for a response from the players and we've got it, and that's really positive. They're a good group with no egos or anything, and that's fundamental to the way we work. We're not egotistical. We like to work hard and work structurally and they've responded to that, and that's been excellent.
“That's all you can ask from a coach and player relationship. All we're looking for is that buy-in and that response to implement the game-plan, and providing our work is good enough and they implement it then that's how you get results.”
Don't forget, you can keep up-to-date with the training camp, supported by Ecowatt, throughout the coming week on southamptonfc.com and by following our social media channels.