Club captain Danny Grainger was another who led by example at the Cassius Camps training day on Monday and, with it being the third time he’d taken the challenge on, we wondered if it was getting any easier as the years go by.
“No, it certainly isn’t,” he said. “It gets harder, if anything. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older or what! The fact is you just can’t prepare for something like this.
“You can do all you want in terms of running and other physical work but this is a completely different kind of test.
“Mentally it’s particularly tough and the assault course you do is 10 or 12 minutes long, but it feels like it will never end. If it wasn’t for your team mates you would really struggle to get through.”
Central to the day, despite all of the individual effort required, is the focus on team work and on helping your team mates through what is a demanding series of tests.
“I had a group of lads stood with me and cheering me on but all I can picture is Bris [Shaun Brisley] because he was screaming as loud as he could right in my face to keep me going,” Grainger explained. “It’s people like that who pull you through.
“They all did the same for the other lads because we know we have to do as much as we can for each other. That’s how it has to be because this place brings you out of your comfort zone so much.
“It’s all about working with and for each other and that makes the tough parts really enjoyable. It doesn’t matter if you’re dead on your feet, or whatever, you’ve got to pick yourself up and do your bit for the next guy.”
Noticeable from last season was the number of times United came from behind to pick up vital points – so has the Cassius Camps experience helped with that?
“Teams have written us off where they’ve possibly thought we had nothing left in the tank to give, but places like this highlight that you actually have got more left than you thought you had,” he told us. “There were a few occasions last year where I’m sure teams thought they’d beaten us but we have the mentality where we never know when we’re down.
“That’s important because you suddenly you find you have everyone pulling in the same direction. That gives you a real chance with whatever you’re doing, including when you’re out there on the pitch.”
Being one of the first to complete the assault course it gave him the opportunity to watch the rest of the lads as they were put through their paces.
“With the team captain role in mind it means you can look at the lads and see how they react to different things,” he confirmed. “It’s alright to be the person who stands and screams in someone’s face, that’s certainly how I like to be encouraged, but other lads prefer a different kind of approach.
On a personal level I get to see how far I can push myself and that’s also important ...
“It’s good for me to get to see that first hand because it could help when we get into a match situation. On a personal level I get to see how far I can push myself and that’s also important because we all need to remind ourselves that we can still go further at times.”
The Cassius Camps package is, of course, just one part of a structured pre-season programme which has been designed to get the squad ready for the big kick off in August.
“We can be as fit as we want and we can win every pre-season game, but it’s all about what we do when we get to the first game of the season against Swindon,” the skipper insisted.
“I’ve been at clubs where we’ve been beaten very good teams by five or six goals in a friendly only to get to the first game to be absolutely trounced. That’s no good for anybody and that’s why we need to make sure we’re ready.
“We’ve been getting clean sheets and scoring goals so that does give us confidence. Keeping clean sheets was one of our downfalls last season as a squad but we’re going into this season with a lot of optimism. There’s a huge amount of expectation that we’re putting on ourselves and I’m sure the fans will be the same.
“That’s something we should embrace. Teams look at us now and they know we won’t be an easy game for them. We’re not going to be rolled over and we’ll always work hard to find a way through our opposition.”
“When the manager came in his thing was to make sure we improved week on week and year on year,” he concluded. “We’ve done that from being rock bottom of the Football League to challenging in the play-offs. There’s only one more place we can go from there, and that’s up.
“Nobody here wants to do it via the play-offs either. We want to do it by being top of the tree. That’s how we want this season to end.”
United PlayerHD subscribers - your platform is now called iFollow United. Click HERE to watch an interview with Danny Grainger now.