Mal Purchase: Sports Science on a Shoe String at Chesterfield FC

When Mal Purchase was appointed as Chesterfield’s strength and conditioning coach last summer, he found a club bereft of a sports science programme with fitness the subject of mere guesswork and estimation.

But now, with a season with the Spireites under his belt, the ex-serviceman is beginning to see the benefits of a culture of accuracy which he has installed at the Proact Stadium – despite the limited manpower and equipment that comes with a smaller budget.

“Here at Chesterfield we can’t afford what the top clubs have, so we have to find other ways,” said the 52-year-old.

“We’ve got fantastic staff here who work really hard, there are not many of us so you have to multitask at clubs like this. You have to do every type of job you can think of. We’re still begging, borrowing and stealing really just to try and compete and that’s what you have to do.

“We target the universities for our testing, for example went to Leeds University’s Headingley Campus this summer and we used Dexa scanners to measure body fats and bone densities.

“We had TMG testing which is a really good muscle testing system used to know whether we need to stretch a muscle, strengthen a muscle or to just maintain a muscle. We don’t have to guess.”

And, having analysed the squad’s fitness levels at the start of pre-season, Purchase’s regime is proving successful.

“When the players came back this pre-season the results showed a 98% improvement on speed and power compared to the first week of last season.

“We gave them programmes in the off-season and the results tell us that what we put in place worked. If we don’t have any testing, we don’t know how the players are coming back and we don’t know what condition they’re really in.

“We monitor players with the GPS so we know exactly what they’re doing, how many sprints they’re doing – how many accelerations, how many decelerations – how much high speed running they’re doing, how much distance they’re covering.”

And, as the sole survivor of the backroom staff from Dean Saunders’ tenure at the Proact, Purchase hopes that the regime currently in place at the Proact Stadium will be given the opportunity to fully develop.

“You need some stability in a club. I think in this day and age people pull the plug on managers too soon, they don’t give them a chance. You have to hold your nerve sometimes because you need at least two years in football, if you keep chopping and changing it makes it difficult to rebuild.

“I think clubs should have a philosophy and stick with it for two years whatever happens because changing all the time does not work.

“What they’ve got now they need to stick with for two years and build and it gives the manager a bit more of a chance. Stability in a club is massive and change doesn’t bring about stability.”

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