Big changes have taken place at Oxford United’s training ground this summer, but if they can have even half the impact of similar steps made by Wigan Warriors it will be money well spent.
Ian Lenagan, who owns both clubs, has a clear view on how United get out of the Football League’s basement division and achieve his goal of reaching the Championship.
Getting the best out of the existing squad through cutting edge sports science is fundamental, while improved youth development is also a priority.
They are measures which propelled the Warriors from also-rans to champions.
In attempting to repeat the success at United, a six-figure sum has been spent recruiting a strength and conditioning coach, Alasdair Lane.
Equipment has also been bought for the club’s gym, while all players will have their progress monitored with a new computer programme.
Lenagan, who became United’s executive chairman after Kelvin Thomas stepped down yesterday, said: “At Wigan it was worth 25 per cent extra performance. It transformed them from being tenth in the table to being champions and then cup winners and now being top of the league again.
“The structures are a good way of preventing injuries – the soft-tissue injuries at Oxford are massive compared with other environments. They won’t be in the medium term.
“I would normally say ‘no you won’t see it the first season’, but in that time Wigan went from eighth to being champions, so it could happen.”
Youth development will take longer to reap results, but three promising academy youngsters will be promoted to train with the senior professionals this season as part of an ‘accelerator squad’ which is designed to fill in when the first-team is hit by injuries.
Manager Chris Wilder enjoyed a close relationship with Thomas, but Lenagan was keen to stress there was no intention of making any changes to the coaching staff.
He said: “My relationship with Chris is I thought he was the right appointment.
“He’s done a very good job for us, one might be a little irritated we’ve not got promoted out of the division in the last two years, but if we get it this year that will be great.”
Lenagan only expects to dedicate half his working week to running United, although there is the potential of hiring a general manager to take on some of the lower level day-to-day elements.
The 66-year-old said: “If you’ve got the right people around you and you know what you’re doing, you don’t need to spend seven days a week on it.
“I know how to run a professional sports club and I think that in the two and a half days a week I can push Oxford United even further on than the great job Kelvin’s done.”