Exeter City's pre-season is under way with new programme planned

IT may feel as though the season has not long finished, the European Championships are still at the group stage and the fixtures for the 2024/25 season are a few days away from being released, but it was an early return to training for Exeter City.

Manager Gary Caldwell had his players back for the start of their preparations for the new campaign last Thursday as they began a seven-week slog that is intrinsically designed to have them in peak and perfect condition for the big kick-off on Saturday August 10.

Last season, Exeter’s pre-season programme consisted of 6am starts, double sessions and even double game days as Caldwell and the City coaching team tested the players physically and mentally ahead of their League One campaign. This year will be similar, but not the same, with the programme left in the capable hands of the club’s new strength and conditioning coach, Les Barrow.

Read More - Exeter City in a far better place to start this pre-season than last year

Read More - Exeter City will face Bristol Rovers and Swindon Town in Bristol Street Motors Trophy

“There’ll be elements of that that we feel were really good,” Caldwell said. “There’s obviously things we did that we might think: ‘You know what, we can make that better’ or we can take that out and improve. Having Les here is big.

“I think it’s important having his expertise in that area, in terms of the load that the players are going to face in the coming weeks and how we affect the players in a positive way for what will be another gruelling season ahead. I think is really important that we test them, we see where everyone is and we build that team spirit over the next six, seven weeks in preparation for the season ahead.”

Barrow actually joined the club at the back end of the season, but there is no denying that Caldwell is happy with the latest addition to his backroom staff. Parry’s credentials stack up well; he’s a former Marine, with 21 years service in the Forces, where he worked as a physical training advisor, chief instructor PT school, physical trainbing instructor (PTI) and human performance, before two years as an S&C coach with Exeter Chiefs.

On City’s latest appointment to their backroom team, Caldwell said: “Les came in back end of last season from Exeter Chiefs as the lead Sport Scientist so he was in full control of the training loads. Tom (Yates) who we had last year as an intern, will work alongside Les, so to have his expertise is great.

“We pretty much went the most of last season without a head strength and conditioning coach. Tom was brilliant but inexperienced, so to have Les is really important.”

Caldwell added: “Les will be in charge of the physical loads and we’re all getting together on, like you said about the early starts and different things that we put into pre-season.

“I always think it’s important that you don’t just focus on the fitness and that’s obviously a major part of it, but there’s so many different things in terms of tactically, the culture we want to create this season, testing the players now and again and seeing how mentally tough they are and building that resilience that they’re going to need through the season.

“There’s lots of different things going into pre-season and hopefully it gets us to start the season in a strong way – similar to last year - and hopefully we can maintain that for the whole season.”

Meanwhile, City have been drawn in Southern Group G of the Bristol Street Motors Trophy, alongside fellow League One side Bristol Rovers and League Two side Swindon Town.

The draw for the Group Stages of the 2024/25 Bristol Street Motors Trophy, where clubs will find out which of the invited Premier League under-21 they will face, will take place live on Sky Sports News on Thursday, June 27 from 2.30pm.

City will face Rovers at least three times this season, as they will also take on their South West rivals in League One action. Exeter were in the same group as Swindon Town last season as well, where a goal from Yanic Wildschut sealed a 1-0 win.

The Grecians will face one of the following Under-21 sides in the group stage: Arsenal, Brighton & Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Fulham, Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United.

Bristol Street Motors Trophy Group Stage matches will commence in early September, with dates to be confirmed following the EFL’s Fixture Release Day tomorrow.