Kunle Odetoyinbo holds that key role at Spurs and, in a six-part series, will explain exactly what it's all about. We will run the series over the next few weekends.
Firstly a little about Kunle. A highly-qualified specialist who joined us in April 1998, Kunle played at semi-professional level with Yeading, Hayes and Chertsey Town and holds coaching qualifications in football, athletics, tennis, basketball and weight-training.
He attended St Mary's University College and then Loughborough University and holds a Masters degree in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a certificate in Nutritional Medicine.
He has been a senior lecturer in Sports Science at Roehampton University and also runs a sports science and coaching degree, exclusively for professional footballers, for the PFA.
He has also been made a Research Fellow to the University of Surrey.
How do you see your role at the club?
Kunle: The whole idea of my appointment was to introduce more scientific aspects to the training of the team and by training I don't just mean physical training at the training ground but also in terms of preparation for and recovery from matches. In football in the UK was slow to take on scientific aspects of training whereas my work in other sports had been going on for many years and the umbrella which it has been desribed sports science. Sports science has been operating in many sports it's just that football, with it's traditional ways of doing things, was slow to take on board new ideas in terms of the scientific aspects of training. Now, the education programmes that have been offered to the FA and the experience coaches have had working with fitness coaches has meant there are many more people working in football doing the sort of job I do. Of course, there are many different types of people working in the game, some are athletes, like Ade Mafe, some are sports scientists like myself, others come from a PE background or something like that.
Most fans will know you having seen you out with Darren Anderton before every game this season.
Kunle: Every player is an individual so we have to show some individual approach to their management. What we try to do is support each player as much as we can to match the need that they have. That is not just from my perspective in terms of fitness but also from the coaches, in terms of the training they do, the physios in terms of the work that goes on before and after they train, the masseurs, chiropractors, chiropodists. I think for the fans that see me come out early with Darren Anderton, they might assume I'm the only person who is working with him. That's not the case. It's always a team effort, headed by the coaches and manager.
Is it all about prevention of injuries?
Kunle: The prevention is a significant part of the work and it's the prevention of the non-contact injuries. We try to separate injuries into contact and non-contact because a certain amount are unavoidable. The kind of injuries that are non-contract, over-stretching, due to fatigue, we can try to minimise as much as possible and appropriate training allows for that. That has become a very important aspect for club, especially those with a smaller playing squad or those with limited resources. But even for those with bigger squads, the need to keep as many of those players able to take part in training is just as important.
I would add one other thing. I hear the words 'fit' and 'fitness' used in so many different ways and for me, my job is orientated around functional fitness whereas the physios are involved in rehab and the treatment towards getting players fit to train. Once they are training, that's when my job becomes relevant. It's important to make that distinction.
Look out for Part Two of Kunle's Soccer and Science next weekend
Fitness coaches might have been sneered at in football 10 years ago but now they are an integral part of the game.