NEWCASTLE United’s first-team are in much better condition now compared to this time last year as they prepare for what potentially could be the most gruelling season of their careers.
That’s the view of assistant manager John Carver, who believes the squad have “a head start” on everyone else such is the fitness levels of the players who reported back for training last week.
The Magpies – who fly to Germany on Friday to play two games as part of their pre-season preparations, before moving on to Austria – made an incredible start to the last campaign, which formed the basis for their eventual run to fifth place in the Premier League.
Newcastle managed to avoid defeat in their first 11 league matches, with that sequence ended by eventual champions Manchester City on November 19.
This season is set to be a much sterner test because of the Europa League campaign and the extra games and travelling that could bring.
Carver, however, believes the players are in excellent shape – even at this very early stage – to cope with anything that might come their way over the coming months.
Asked how pre-season training had gone so far, Carver replied: “It’s been wet!
“But that has been good for the players because normally you come back to pre-season and it’s roasting hot. Last year we were in America and we were in record-breaking temperatures.
“So to come back into this weather is, for the players at least, fantastic. For us coaches it’s a bit damp and miserable, but the lads are enjoying themselves and are in great condition.
“Nobody is overweight, which is great, and in fact they are in better condition than they were last year, so we have a head start. It’s been a good, solid pre-season.”
Manager Alan Pardew will have to wait until later this month before having a full complement of players to work with
again. But Carver insisted that was of little concern and, indeed, there was no negativity at all surrounding the club at the moment.
He said: “We still have that feel-good factor from last season.
“The only problem is that we have four players still away, three of them because they were at the European Championships.
“The two French boys, Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, come back at the end of next week, while Papiss Cisse is back with us on Thursday. Tim Krul returns on Monday and we will all be together as a group soon enough.”
Ryan Taylor, meanwhile, has urged his team-mates to make a similar blistering start to the upcoming season.
He expects most of the top teams, and those who finished mid-table, to have improved, and that means a fast start being all the more important for the Magpies.
Taylor said: “We went 11 games unbeaten at the start last time and only lost to Manchester City, the winners of the league. I think we need to do the same again.
“We have got a tough start – Tottenham, Chelsea – and we have got to hit the ground running, so hopefully the likes of Papiss can still keep his goalscoring boots on. I am sure a few teams will have better seasons, even the likes of Aston Villa and Stoke City.
“We played Everton in the last game and they looked very strong. If they get off to a good start, they can push on. There are a few teams you could look at, but we look at ourselves and we can have a right good go this season.
“We need a few more bodies to help us get through that European football, but I am sure the manager has got plans and we can kick on.”