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Fitness First

The Villa players have undergone a drastic overhaul of training sessions since Houllier’s arrival with the team reaping the rewards. The new manager has introduced double sessions and extensive fitness sessions to gear the club to league progression. Fitness coach Robert Duverne was one of Houllier’s first appointments, made notorious for a training ground bust up with France captain Patrice Evra at the World Cup. It appears the 43-year-old really does take no prisoners after John Carew and today, Stiliyan Petrov, both revealed an increase in work rate at training.

Norwegian front-man Carew has had a start to the season hampered by injuries but feels extensive training and fitness is helping him get back to his best. The 31-year-old is yet to score for Villa this term and his future seemed in doubt a couple of weeks back after impressive form from Emile Heskey. Heskey suffered a back injury which kept him out of the Chelsea game but an improved performance from Carew and a goal for his country have picked the big man out of a bad spell. The striker has praised the impact of Houllier, who he worked with at Lyon, and his backroom staff since arriving last month. Carew has been impressed by the step up in training overall and is happy to embrace the intense training schedule stating,

“We’re doing more on possession play, on defensive organisation, offensive organisation. We are doing more of that and that’s really good. I think that will show in results over the whole season, as we know more what to do and where to be. We work hard on new things and that’s what we’re all interested in, that’s what we’re here for, to make this club better and make the results better, to achieve goals and improve each season. If that means more work and harder work, which it probably does, then that’s good.”

The fans favourite was backed up by skipper Stiliyan Petrov, who too has come under scrutiny from a number of the Villa faithful. Like Carew, Petrov was much improved against the champions in the 0-0 draw on Saturday and put the result down to improved fitness levels within the squad. The Captain, who often looks like he’s been swimming rather than playing football at the end of a match-day (why does his shirt always seem darker than the others?), joked,

“My next level of fitness is dying, after the next couple of weeks I may do two marathons in a row!”

Petrov went on to commend the work done put in by fitness coach, Duverne to get them to the next level.

“Some days it’s hard, it’s physical, it’s running other times it’s football as well. We just need to accept it and keep working but we want to get fitter and get this club to the next level. We have a good fitness coach. He’s been doing a really great job. He has his own programme and we are working on that direction.”

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