LEE CLARK wants his Town players to think their way into the League I play-offs.
As he starts the build-up to Saturday’s vital trip to Stockport County, the manager has praised his right-hand men, and revealed some of the techniques which have helped the team mount a challenge this season.
Assistant manager Terry McDermott, first-team coach Derek Fazackerley, performance coach Steve Black and development coach Paul Stephenson work alongside Clark daily, and each have their own areas of speciality.
“I’ve surrounded myself with experience in my backroom staff and I’ve taken a bit of every manager I played under into this job with me,” said the 37-year-old, who served hometown Newcastle (in two spells), Sunderland and Fulham before coaching at Newcastle then becoming assistant to manager Glenn Roeder at Norwich.
“I’d be a fool not to learn from those I’ve seen at close quarters, people like Glenn, Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalglish and Graeme Souness.
“I also discovered a lot under Jean Tigana at Fulham. The French were world and European champions at the time and were flavour of the month in football.
“Tigana was really into nutrition and fitness and I’ve remembered his philosophy and methods.”
Among them was the art of visualisation, where players focus on their specific roles and areas of the pitch.
“The foreign players were all into it when they started to come over here in their numbers, and I soon saw the value in it,” explained Clark.
“We use a shadow play technique by which players focus in detail on what the opposition might do and what they can do to beat them.
“Sometimes the starting XI would line up and play on a pitch without any opposition in order to visualise their roles and responsibilities.
“While some of the British lads weren’t too good at it, the foreign players really bought into it, and it’s something we’ve tried to drill into the players here.”
Clark also believes Black’s influence has been telling, particularly on fitness levels and the avoidance of injuries.
“While trauma and wear and tear injuries will always happen, Steve does a terrific job in keeping the players in great condition,” said Clark.
“It starts on day one of pre-season, which is a crucial phase because it gets the players to the level of fitness we demand.
“Our aim is to train at the same intensity as we play matches, because that way you aren’t confusing the body.
“Steve is very meticulous about warming up and warming down and doesn’t believe in stretching, which he thinks traumatises muscles.”