Simon Hart: Science makes players think they can only do so much

The Small Squad

For Danny Donachie, two words help explain Everton's success in challenging for Europe with the top flight's smallest squad. There may be the twice-weekly yoga sessions and de rigueur afternoon naps, but the key is the players' attitude – or rather "amazing desire".

Everton, despite using fewer players (23) than any other club, are the only team with two players who have featured in all their club's Premier League games this season, Leighton Baines and Leon Osman.

Donachie, the club's head of medicine, underlines the extent of their desire to play every week. "Against Man City away this season, Leon Osman woke up at two in the morning and was vomiting until six. He had one piece of toast to eat and he played the whole game and was one of the best players."

Ditto Baines before a home game. "The night before, he started vomiting and again on the pitch doing the warm-up. Just before we went out, he was vomiting but he played the whole game."

David Moyes's small squad – and lack of options to rotate – has been cited as a reason for their post-Christmas dip yet Donachie, though aware of the cons ("It is difficult mentally to maintain your level for the whole season"), sees the pros too. "I definitely think there is an advantage, because the players who are playing every week, they get their rhythm," he says, arguing that sports science has wrongly "made players believe they can only do a certain amount".

Moyes is known as a hard trainer yet at this stage of the season that changes a little. "The duration of the training definitely decreases, it is as intense but a lot shorter and there's a bit more fun to it – to keep it fresh mentally," adds Donachie.

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