Gary Lewin: Players need winter break

The England physio tells Patrick Barclay that this spate of injuries is due to the non-stop demands of the Premier League

As the man responsible for overseeing England's fitness at Euro 2012, Gary Lewin has spent the past few weeks with fingers crossed, and one of his fears was realised when Frank Lampard limped out of training on Wednesday, joining a list of midfield casualties that already included Jack Wilshere, Jack Rodwell and Gareth Barry.

The worry on Lampard's behalf – and it ought to nag Joachim Löw even more than Roy Hodgson – was that he took part in the Champions League final. Germany had seven participants to England's three (unless you count John Terry, which only John Terry could) and Lewin has traced a link between the climax of the European club season and readiness for a tournament summer. Check out his theory: not only did Spain, winners of the European Championship in 2008 and World Cup in 2010, have no club side in the final in either year but that Italian sides fell similarly short before lifting the World Cup in 2006.

The search for physical and mental condition has fascinated Lewin since he became England's physiotherapist after Euro 96, starting under Glenn Hoddle in the Moldova match more widely remembered as David Beckham's debut. Once an apprentice goalkeeper with Arsenal, he switched careers at 19 and served the club through two title-winning campaigns under George Graham and three under Arsène Wenger before turning full-time to the national cause in 2008. And Lewin does subscribe to the notion that the intensity of club football in England takes a toll.

"Ask the foreign coaches who come here," he said, "and they'll tell you that the physical demands of every game are identical. It doesn't matter if you are playing Wigan or Manchester United – it will be demanding. With due respect to Spanish and Italian football, which technically are amazing, you watch some games and they are like testimonials. You could never say that about the Premier League. Every opponent will fight to the end."

As testimony to the effect on internationals, he traces the fortunes of France: "In 1998, when they won the World Cup, they had hardly any players in English football. In 2000, there were more but they didn't have a lot in our League until 2002, which was a disaster [the team beaten by Senegal in the opening match of the World Cup and ejected at the group stage included Fabien Barthez, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit, Marcel Desailly, Sylvain Wiltord, Thierry Henry and Youri Djorkaeff]. It would be very interesting to talk to European players. David Silva, for instance. He was brilliant in the first half of the season but sometimes looked tired in the second.

"That's why, like a lot of coaches, I'm a strong advocate of the winter break. Even if you didn't cut down on the number of games, it would help, mentally as well as physically. Physical trainers and scientists will tell you that we have a period of deconditioning – that's our summer break – and then a period of conditioning before you're ready. Then we in England have nine or 10 months before the process is repeated. Even if we had a small break, I believe that the mental relaxation a player enjoyed in that time – without deconditioning much – would have a beneficial effect towards the end of the season.

"Uefa have even done studies which indicate that a player is four times more likely to be injured in the last three months in the Premier League than other leagues in Europe." Lewin did a tour of the clubs – he now monitors England players rather than waiting to discover their condition when they report – in the closing weeks of the season and then began working closely with the suddenly-parachuted Hodgson. At least the players have been spared the lengthy and – some claimed – tedious preparations for the World Cup two years ago.

Asked if performances in South Africa proved that a waste of time, Lewin sighed. "To be honest," he said, "we've tried every way of preparing the England players. We've tried training them hard, giving them a beach holiday, locking them away, taking them up into the mountains and I can't say that any one has stood out as the way forward." The hotel in downtown Krakow is the latest part of "the search for our Holy Grail".

But Lewin is excited about the future. He was speaking at a conference involving the Isokinetic Medical Group, who are due to open a Fifa-approved centre of excellence in London next year, and before that will come the opening of the long-awaited St George's Park. "To have world-class facilities on our doorstep," he said, "will be like waking up every day like a child on Christmas morning." And England should be in ever-safer hands.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea