Martin Jol believes the final leg of our South Africa tour in Johannesburg, training and playing at high altitude, will prove of benefit to the squad as they enter the final stages of the preparation period.
Martin Jol believes the final leg of our South Africa tour in Johannesburg, training and playing at high altitude, will prove of benefit to the squad as they enter the final stages of the preparation period.The squad spent three days in the city ahead of the Vodacom Challenge final 45 minutes away in Pretoria. The final, of course, was won by a 3-0 margin against Orlando Pirates, with the goals coming in a superb 21 minute spell at the beginning of the first half.
"The conditioning was important but there were other priorities and we had to win," reasoned Martin. "Our record in friendly matches is very good even though sometimes we play different teams. We are now back in London for the final part of our preparation before we play Sunderland.
"When we were in Johannesburg we were training and playing at high altitude and that is always good for the players because when you come back you feel better. I can assure you though, that the second half of the final game was not easy, but it was a good opportunity to show what we can do.
"We did very well in the first 30 minutes, but after that somebody flicked the cruise control button and we looked a bit tired. The game was done though and the trophy was won.
"It was important to make a good impression and overall it was a great experience for the players."
Meanwhile, Martin went on to offer progress reports on the players who were unable to make the trip to South Africa due to injury.
"Ledley had his knee operation after playing for England at the end of the season and is doing well with his rehabilitation and the specialists are very happy with him," reported Martin. "He will still be out for probably another two months but, as with all injuries, it does not serve any real purpose to put a strict timeframe on his return. I think it is important to stress that we always anticipated Ledley being out for this period of time and we shall give him the time needed to fully recover. We added to the squad with Younes Kaboul and he will provide even greater depth to our defensive ranks.
"Aaron Lennon is another one the specialists are very pleased with and he is stepping up his work all the time. We hope to have him back by the end of August.
"Gareth Bale did very well in the first match he played against St Patrick's and was a real force on the left. He suffered an injury to his thigh and later to his knee so he couldn't go with us to South Africa, but he is doing fine now and won't be out for too much l onger.
"Lee Young-Pyo is doing well with his conditioning and hopefully he will be fit in one or two weeks . He saw the specialist last night who was very happy with his progress. Benoit Assou-Ekotto is struggling with a swollen knee that could keep him out for another three or four weeks.
"Lee Barnard is back playing after picking up a toe injury and I also thought it would be better to leave him behind to play games. He is such a fine talent and a goalscorer and hopefully we can do something with him this season.
"Ben Alnwick was over in South Africa with us, but he suffered a medial ligament problem with his knee and came home for treatment. He has since started jogging without any discomfort."