Ipswich Town coach: Next year will be the survival of the fittest

IT might not be the top spot coveted by Blues fans next season.

But Town fitness coach Andy Liddell believes making Ipswich the fittest club in the league will go a long way to turning them into a real Championship force.

Blues boss Paul Jewell has always put fitness as a top priority given the gruelling quest for Premiership football and Town’s poor second half performances in recent matches have made this an even more pressing priority.

While there are still five matches left this season, a punishing training programme for the summer and beyond has already been put into place.

Liddell said: “We’ve got to be the fittest team in the league – it’s the nature of the game.

“From what I have seen, the higher you go up the league, the fitter you need to be. The Premier League lads are awesome athletes. So if you want to get to that standard, you need to be as fit as you can.

“It is up to the manager to make them the fittest team in the league and he demands they are the fittest, the strongest and the best.”

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While having high standards for next season, Liddell believes the current side have coped admirably with the gruelling run of games over the last month.

He added: “It’s physical but we have some superb athletes in our team. That’s all down to the manager – we train hard and we train at match intensity.”

Liddell reserved special praise for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas who before Monday’s defeat to Leicester had started 20 consecutive matches – after having his fitness initially questioned by the Town manager.

“From a fitness level, he never really had his body conditioned to play Championship level,” Liddell explained. “He’s not going to grow any more in stature, but you can see him growing fitness-wise, week after week.

“He is a top player but he will only get better, the fitter he is, and hopefully that will continue next season.”

But Liddell sounded a warning to any players who let their guard down during the extended three-month summer break.

He said: “If any players don’t put in the work, there will be repercussions. If the players don’t want to work as hard as they can, then they won’t play – that’s not just at Ipswich but everywhere.”