During the Swans’ energy-sapping 6x1000m runs this week, an outfield member of the squad shouted “why don’t the goalkeepers join us?”
Back at the team hotel for this interview, goalkeeping coach Adrian Tucker raises a smile when he is reminded of that comment.
“You don’t see goalkeepers running non-stop for five or six minutes, so why should they do it in training?” Tucker responds.
Fair point. For Tucker and his goalkeepers, pre-season training is a different type of fitness.
During the club’s ten-day tour of Holland, Tucker’s training programme is mainly based on speed and speed endurance with short and sharp drills.
Michel Vorm, Gerhard Tremmel and 17-year-old Gregor Zabret won’t be seen running laps around the pitch in either of the morning or afternoon sessions. Instead, they are working in their office that is the penalty area, going through various shot-stopping and distribution drills which work on several areas of their game.
“I think the conception of goalkeepers is that they catch the ball and kick it up the pitch,” quips Tucker. “I don’t think people realise the preparation and effort that goalkeepers have to put into their training to improve their performance within a match.
“Obviously, with the style we have in place here, it requires the goalkeeper to be comfortable with the ball at his feet – on top of being a good shot-stopper.
“So we work on distribution a lot.”
Tucker’s work has primarily been with Tremmel and young Slovenian signing Zabret throughout the tour in Holland, with Vorm having recently joined his team-mates as he returned later due to international commitments.
It has been an useful exercise here in The Hague, with the older pro and young apprentice sharing the majority of the game-time in the three wins over FC Gravenzande, Excelsior Maassluis and Haaglandia.
Tremmel’s performances last season were a real positive for Michael Laudrup, with the German stopper playing a significant part in the club’s success when Vorm was sidelined by injury.
Some inspiring performances against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Newcastle were the highlights for the 34-year-old, who also featured in every round of the club’s victorious Capital One Cup campaign.
And his rise in stature has been a major positive for Tucker, who thinks the positive relationship between Tremmel and Vorm brings the best out of each other.
“Last season went very well for Gerhard,” says Tucker. “I’ve always said that it’s so difficult for a goalkeeper to be expected to play at his best when he goes into a game not having played for a while.
“But Gerhard had a good run of games last season and showed his quality. He came into the side and we went on a very good run of form, and Gerhard certainly played his part in that – to be top of the saves per shot ratio in the top-flight says a lot.
“It was great to see him play in the (Capital One Cup) final too. Michael said all along he would play Gerhard in the final if we got that far, and he stuck to his word.
“Michel was fully supportive of that decision too - I think their relationship helps us a lot.
“They are pushing each other hard for one position, but they are also doing their best to help each other too. It’s a real positive when you get a relationship like that between your goalkeepers.”
Having been part of the Holland squad that took on Indonesia and China this summer, Vorm met up with his club team-mates in midweek.
The Dutch international could feature in Saturday’s final game of the tour against ADO Den Haag as the Swans look to pick up a fourth complete victory.
“Michel returned in excellent shape,” said Tucker. “He’s been away on international duty which extended his season, but he’s had a few weeks off and now he’s ready for what this campaign brings.
“He’s looked after himself, which means he’s not far off where he needs to be in terms of fitness.
“So it’s just a case of working with him in training and getting a few games under his belt before the start of the season, which of course will be our Europa League games.”
Youngster Zabret has also impressed Tucker during the ten-day tour.
Having been on trial at the Liberty last February, the Slovenian Under-19s stopper joined the Swans this summer having played in his homeland’s top flight last season with Domzale.
Following this tour, Zabret will be looking to make an impression in the U18 and U21 set-ups.
And Tucker has been impressed with the teenager – on and off the pitch.
“You get a good feeling when you see some goalkeepers, and I definitely saw something in Gregor,” adds Tucker.
“He was playing senior football in Slovenia last season, and from the DVDs I was sent, I was impressed by various aspects of his game.
“He was recommended to me by a contact I made in America last year while we were out there on pre-season tour, and we were impressed with Gregor when he arrived on trial.
“After he signed, we wondered whether it would benefit him more to stay in Swansea and settle in the area or come with us to Holland.
“We opted to bring him with us, and I think he’s really benefited from being around the lads and the training sessions.
“He’s only a young lad, but I think he’s conducted himself well on and off the pitch.
“After this tour he’ll be looking to play with the age groups, though he has competition from Oliver Davies.
“But we’re pleased Gregor has come on board. We have a strong group of goalkeepers at the club, and, of course, David Cornell is out on loan with St Mirren in the Scottish Premier League, so he will also benefit from that.”