John Phillips: "Chelsea game is a lot about mentality"

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A new FC Krasnodar physical fitness coach interview

John, congratulations on your appointment. Is FC Krasnodar a new challenge for you and was it easy for you to move to Russia?

– Firstly, spasibo. Yeah, it's a new challenge. It's a great challenge for me. Obviously, I spoke a lot with the club representatives when they asked me if I'd be interested in the project and I really liked the ambition and the ideas. It's a great opportunity to try and develop and improve within playing European football and competing in the Russian League. It's good to now try and evolve everything else around football.

How well do you know Russian football? Have you followed it before?

– Yeah, obviously I'm well aware of the history within Russian football and particularly following and being involved in European football, and I'm well aware there's a lot of history over here and a great reputation for players being hard working and aggressive, so it was very interesting to be offered the opportunity to come and work in a great environment and a very good league.

– You have worked for Southampton and Queens Park Rangers. What do these projects, your personal projects, have in common and what are their general characteristics?

– Yes, I have worked in the Premier League and Championship with Southampton and with QPR and they're both big clubs very similar to Krasnodar. They compete in multiple competitions the same as we are now with the League, the Cup after Christmas, and obviously the European football and Champions league at the moment. When I was at QPR it was like a new project as well, so we had to develop everything and build systems and protocols to try and improve on-the-field performance, so there are similarities there, yes.

– You are a physical fitness specialists, the English championships in all leagues are considered comparing them to every European League to be the longest in the duration of their championships and they are most intense. How do English clubs manage to maintain such a schedule?

– It's very hard. It's very very hard and the key things are training correctly, making sure that we train at the right intensity, so if you want to play at a high level you have to train even harder. We also have to look after the players not as one but individually so every player is different. Some players are older, some are younger, they play on different positions and they all have different demands based on the style of play the head coach Murad Musaev has and the philosophy of the club. So there's also things like load management. If players have played internationally three games and travelled all over the world and then they come back, then they're going to be slightly higher risk of getting injured. It's just trying to manage each player individually, making sure they're fit, making sure they're strong, and just trying to keep them available on the field as much as possible.

– You have worked not only at Southampton and QPR, you also worked at Malmo and an Asian club, so getting back to our previous questions, what do you have to say about them?

– When I went to Malmo the philosophy in Sweden was to train long duration and quite slowly. When I went in we kind of changed that a little bit and we tried to increase the intensity, reduce the volume and just tried to change the culture which was good because I had the support of the manager and the club. And since then Malmo have gone on really well, they're playing in the Champions League, they compete very strongly in the Allsvenska. In Asia I was in Dubai. It was a very new project, we were trying to develop football. The culture there is a lot different to Russia and Europe. So I was trying to change the mindset of the players, trying to make things more professional, you know, all the things that come around the training such as nutrition and sleep, gym, strength, injury prevention all these things. So it wasn't just changing the training. It was changing the mindset and the culture of those sort of things.

– Can the English Premier League be called the most advanced tournament in terms of physical training of players in the world?

– I don’t know if it’s the most advanced. I think they tend to have probably the best players there, in Bundesliga, and obviously in LaLiga. But the players are very athletic already, so you're talking the best of the best. So you're starting from a very high level. Obviously the coaches are very good, a lot of them, so the training tends to be good as well. I would say the Championship is more demanding because there's less rest. But in the Premier League, most of the players will play internationally, so they're playing pretty much 12 months of the year with no break, they play all year round.

– In the upcoming game of Bulls against Chelsea what do you expect from the London club?

– Chelsea same as most English clubs, they're going to be aggressive, the speed of the game will be we high. They're doing okay in the league, but they will want to come and they will want to really try and dominate so it's going to be tough. Obviously with the injuries we've got and things like that. But for me it's just we have to fight, we have to work hard, and try not to be intimidated by them in any way, so it's a lot to do in the mentality and as well as the physicality.

– What are the strong sides of modern Chelsea and what should we be aware of?

– Obviously it’s the technical ability, also the speed and power. They have a lot of players who can individually do something out of nothing. I think the key is if we work hard, if we're aggressive, we need to concentrate for 95-96 minutes. We can't switch off because you'll get punished by this sort of teams. So it's almost as much mental as it's physical for this game. Don't give them the respect and allow them to play, we have to be aggressive and take the game to them.

– Okay and the last question. Do you expect an open game?

– I think it'll depend on how they want to come out and play. Their style of play, they change it quite a lot. They changed formation against Southampton from Manchester United, so it will depend on how they see the game. If they look at it and think they can come and run over us then I think it’ll be quite open. Which I think probably helps us because it means that there'll be opportunities to counter-attack.

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