Burgess: AFL harder than EPL

10 October 2012 05:31

Former Liverpool conditioning manager Darren Burgess says fitness coaches face a bigger challenge in the AFL than English Premier League.

Burgess recently stepped down after two years as head of fitness and conditioning at the Reds before joining Australian Rules club Port Adelaide as their high performance manager, a role he previously occupied before turning his attention to the round-ball code.

He told SEN while he understood many would question his move from the most-watched football league in the world back to the Australian Football League (AFL), he was relishing the prospect.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is that for somewhere like the Premier League, the role of the fitness coach is a little bit different to what it is in the AFL,” Burgess said.

“In the Premier League they play so many games that you’re more or less restricted to warming up and trying to keep the reserves fit because the games take care of the senior players.

“Whereas back in the AFL, purely from a job point of view – I won’t even go into the lifestyle differences between Liverpool and Australia – there’s a lot more riding on the fitness coaches.

“It was an outstanding period of my life to go over there and live the dream and work with a Premier League club. But the AFL’s a little more challenging.”

Burgess also leapt to the defence of Liverpool star Luis Suarez, who has come under criticism for going to ground too easily.

“Luis is very misunderstood,” Burgess said.

“He is an absolute champion off the pitch and on the pitch. He’s a family man, loyal to a fault and an absolute star.

“I’ve never seen any other player in any other sport that I’ve worked with bring (his intensity) every day at training. He’s unbelievable.

“He has to win whether you’re playing cards, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit or a five-a-side. He just has to win and will do anything to win.

“I know on the pitch he gets some criticism and you can decide whether that’s deserved or not, but I’d certainly rather have him on my team than against.”

Bridge: Wanderers to maintain intensity

10 October 2012 05:31

Western Sydney Wanderers striker Mark Bridge says the side will not suffer any mental letdown following the club’s debut last weekend.

After months of hype and excitement surrounding their entry to the competition, the Wanderers showed they will be competitive this season by holding heavyweights Central Coast to a 0-0 draw on Saturday night.

But the big challenge for Tony Popovic’s side will now be replicating that same effort and performance on a weekly basis, starting with a tough trip to Adelaide to face the Reds on Friday.

Bridge admitted there was still a huge buzz among the playing group following their solid start but stressed the importance to move on and focus on the next challenge.

“We always said win, lose or draw we were going to come in on Monday and work on things that need improvement and get prepared for our next match,” Bridge told reporters on Wednesday.

“It was a very good occasion, a good crowd and it was very exciting for football in Australia.

“As long as we keep performing well I’m sure the interest will stay there.

“But there’s pressure on every team, every week to play well.

“Maybe being the new team there is that little bit of pressure to be competitive, which we want to be, but if we keep working hard I’m sure we’ll be ok.”

Despite their impressive start Popovic may decide to tinker with his line-up to accommodate star recruit Shinji Ono.

The former Japanese international will have the benefit of another full week of training under his belt and would provide an extra attacking thrust to the Wanderers side.

Asked how Ono had settled into the squad, Bridge revealed: “He’s adapting well to the (players’ in-house) fine system.

“We’ve got him on a lot of things… little things off the pitch like leaving stuff behind and things like that, but he’ll get used to it.

“His English isn’t always the best but he understands what he owes and how much he owes at the end of the week which is great because I don’t have to run after him to collect it.

“But he looks good for only being here a week. He’s a massive player, a massive professional and I’m sure he’ll have a big year.”

Bridge, who played in the role just behind striker Dino Kresinger against the Mariners, may well be the unlucky player to miss out should Ono force his way into the starting side.

The former Sydney FC attacker was happy with his performance in the opening week but felt he should have scored with a one-on-one chance early in the second-half.

“I had that chance where (Mariners right-back) Pedj (Bojic) passed me the ball, it would have been a good assist, but my last touch let me down a bit,” Bridge said.

“Playing up behind the strikers is something I don’t do quite often so I was pretty happy with how I went.”

Injury blow for Blaszczykowski

10 October 2012 05:30

Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski will miss his side’s World Cup qualifier against England with an ankle injury.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder picked up the injury in the Bundesliga champions’ 1-1 draw with Hannover on Sunday.

The 26-year-old could face up to six weeks out of action, meaning he must wait before he can build on his solid start to the season.

“I immediately felt something wrong. As an athlete, you notice this,” Blaszczykowski said.

“It’s not easy, especially since I’ve had a good season. But I’ve had worse things. I will fight and try to come back quickly.

“This is very annoying. But it cannot be helped. The guys can do it without me!”

Blaszczykowski will not only be absent for his side’s Champions League clash with Real Madrid but he will also miss the World Cup qualifier against England and a friendly against South Africa four days earlier.

“If it works, I’ll go to Warsaw. I am the captain, I want to be there and support the troops,” he said.

Debuchy warning for Spain

10 October 2012 04:45

Mathieu Debuchy believes France can take it right up to reigning world and European champions Spain in World Cup qualifying next Tuesday.

Debuchy said France had under-performed in the last meeting between the sides, in the quarter-finals of Euro 2012.

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso scored twice in clash to wrap up an ultimately comfortable victory for La Roja.

But Debuchy, who was replaced by Florent Malouda in the second half of that tie as France pushed for an equaliser, is determined to see an improvement in his team’s performance this time around.

“I have a little regret for this game when I was not at my level or in my (correct) position. I could have given more,” he told France Football.

“They were stronger than us. They controlled the game from beginning to end. It was the quarter-finals of the Euros. We did not do enough to put them in danger.”

Heading into their World Cup qualifier with Vicente Del Bosque’s side next week, the French have recorded two victories from their opening two games in Group I, beating Finland and Belarus.

Debuchy believes a new-look France will be able to redeem themselves from the defeat at Euro 2012.

“There have been many changes in the group, with new staff and a new coach,” he said.

“I do not know whether we need to try something new against Spain. We’ll let the coach decide. We will work this week to become dangerous (so we can) bring something back from there.

“I have not watched Spain’s latest games but I do not think they have changed a lot of players, and they have the same philosophy of playing we know about.

“We know this is a very good team playing very good football and they remain the best nation.”

Graham urges Swansea stars to commit

10 October 2012 04:37

Swansea striker Danny Graham hopes that other squad members will follow Michel Vorm’s lead and commit their futures to the club.

The 28-year-old extended his contract with the Welsh club in late September, penning a new four-year deal which will keep him at the Liberty Stadium until 2016.

Vorm quickly became an integral part of the Swans squad after joining from Utrecht last summer, prompting reported interest during the close-season transfer window.

But Graham is confident that such talk will now cease and is hoping that the likes of Ashley Williams and Neil Taylor will follow suit with the Dutchman.

“We are hoping that Michel signing will encourage others to do the same,” Graham told GK Icon.

“The chairman has acted quickly in giving Michel a new deal. Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor and several others are also being sorted out.

“Michel stated he wanted to stay because he can see something special happening.

“For Michel to say that when he has been linked with some top teams is a great thing and hopefully the chairman can use that to his advantage and tie down some more players on contracts, and bring other players in to help the squad move forward.”

Graham is just one of a number of admirers whom the Netherlands international has garnered since his arrival in English football and the striker believes that Vorm has the ability to become a world-class goalkeeper.

“Michel has been unbelievable since he joined the club. Swansea made a big thing about losing Dorus de Vries and how they would replace him when he joined Wolves,” he said.

“Swansea like to use their goalkeeper as another outfield player and he has come in and been superb. He has every attribute to be a top, top goalkeeper.”