Former Wallabies and Brisbane Broncos fitness guru Steve Nance is raising eyebrows and tempers for his work with English Premier League club Fulham.
The sight of substitutes staying warm on exercise bikes on the sidelines is nothing new for followers of Australian football codes.
But when Fulham’s substitutes, including Socceroo Ahmad Elrich, took to the bikes during the Cottagers’ season-opener with Birmingham City at the weekend, it prompted guffaws and headlines in England.
Fulham manager Chris Coleman – taking the understandable approach that the club can not outspend its rivals but can perhaps outlast them – advocates Nance’s work, and the players are being won over after initial grumbling.
“In pre-season, we would normally train for 90 minutes a day,” said Coleman.
“Now we have two sessions a day – one for two hours and the other for an hour and 45 minutes.
“It’s a lot longer and much of it was without the ball.
“At first, a lot of the players were knocking on my door going nuts because they thought it was too difficult.
“We took pictures of their bodies and said watch the change in their physique.
“The change has been miraculous and now they are enjoying it.”
Nance worked with the Wallabies from 1998-2000, which took in the 1999 World Cup win, and has since been with with the Broncos, the London Broncos and coached rugby in France.
This was his first-venture into the round-ball code, and he saw room for improvement in conditioning.
“When rugby went from being amateur to professional, the last thing to change was the physical preparation, there was plenty of money but the players didn’t want to work very hard for it,” said Nance.
“I’m not saying the guys here are the same but they’ve never been pushed physically.
“The biggest difference is that we don’t need to get them as big as rugby players but we still have to make them fast and powerful.
“People are still surrounded by the myth that by doing strength training you get slower and lose your flexibility. Actually it’s totally the opposite.
“Football is quite physical with all the various contests for the ball that occur all over the pitch.
“We’re trying to get them to a stage where they will be able to win more one-on-one’s than they lose.”