Arsenal Medical Centre

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Best article I've read on the Med Centre. From Red Action.

10/11/11 - The Arsenal Medical Centre

Thanks to some strong campaigning from our friends at the Arsenal Supporters Trust the club have initiated a series of visits to the new state of the art medical facilities at London Colney.

I was asked along as a representative of REDaction and Arsenal Essex, and joined with Ben from Arsenal Herts & Beds and Francis from Arsenal France. Kate from the Arsenal Press Office met us at reception and the four of us were soon deep into Arsenal conversation. We did not have to wait long for our guide Colin Lewin to show up. He apologised for the absence of Gary O’Driscoll who had flown to the USA that day to take a peek at the Nike Sports centre in Oregon and their set up.

We started off in Colin and Gary’s office and we were shown the players ‘drugs cabinet’. Each player has a drawer with all the various supplements that they take. Colin told us that some of the players when they move to Arsenal literally empty out a bag with all their supplements in. Arsenal check all these so that there are no problems like the Kolo Toure ‘slimming pills’ fiasco at Man City. Arshavin has three drawers to himself and the complete opposite to that is Yossi Benayoun who had never taken any supplements before his move.

All players are regularly drugs tested by UEFA and Colin feels that performance improving drugs are not a problem in football as there is little chance of any player getting away with it. He did say that when the players are due to be tested the medical team will even go as far as to tell security to ask whether the player has had his test before he leaves the complex so they don’t get anyone driving home and forgetting, as if any footballer would be stupid enough to do that!

Colin opened the door to another room to find two young lads in darkness playing with their computers. They sit in this room and study all the prozone data that is provided on forthcoming opponents etc. This area should be known as football nerd heaven but is obviously very important part of match planning these days.

Upstairs in this building was the new gym area, which has received a lot of attention from the media. This included the reduced gravity running machine (not uncommon at clubs – cost 40k). This machine was pretty vital in the recent recuperation of Thomas Vermaelen. We were told that Thomas’s injury was not as often quoted in the press an Achilles problem. In fact his Achilles are in fantastic shape but it was a tendon issue to the side of the Achilles, which has now been rectified by surgery.

Colin also advised us that Arsenals medical team work very closely with other clubs medical teams, they might not speak on a match day but during the normal working day they are happy to share knowledge with their peers. This even goes as far as talking to Spurs and advising them about Michael Dawsons injury recently.

There was one device there that they use to test the strength of a players legs and Colin advised that Marouane Chamakh tends to be the strongest and that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is pretty close behind.

There were areas for stretching and even for weekly yoga sessions that Mikel Arteta is very keen on. I did ask whether the players paid for the yoga sessions but apparently they don’t get involved with things like cash.

We then crossed over into the original building and saw Arsene deep in conversation with Tony Colbert the fitness coach and Steve Rowley. This was at about 5pm some three hours after training finished.

Into the changing rooms and they are massive with no doors on the lockers to save space. Energy bars and drinks were everywhere, as some of the boys are bit naughty when it comes to eating breakfast etc. There were charts all over the place, one was for how hydrated the players are and the club are really working on this area and you could see who all the bad boys were in the last week. Maybe somebody should replace one players catchphrase of deench with drench!

In the massage room all the players can book massages from the three permanent masseuses and another chart shows what specific areas need working on. Corporal Jenkinson as befits his upright army posture seems to need a lot of areas worked on.

There is a massive gym in this section as well as well as steam room, swimming pool with movable floor, cold plunge bath, and a Jacuzzi.

Colin told us how the new senior pros had really stepped up the atmosphere at the training ground in terms of the squad really pulling together. There wasn’t really a problem before but because it was such a young dressing room maybe the players did not always see the importance of some of the stuff they were asked to do.

RVP has really settled into the captains role and fine collection is now rigorously imposed for being late, phones going off, wrong kit etc.

We finished off by going upstairs again to Rob the Chefs restaurant and having a chat over a coffee. Whilst Colin was getting them in, Steve Bould wandered over and said ‘hello’ and asked as what we were there for and we had a good chat about the youth team and I reminded him of a previous meeting at the Ally Pally at a supporters club evening when he slapped me on the head and said ‘good to see another baldy!’ This was a way of him extricating himself from another ‘interesting’ conversation. Bouldy looks like he could turn out and play tomorrow not an ounce of fat on him, and he was genuinely interested in who we were and why we were there etc.

We quizzed Colin over the perceived problems that Arsenal have fitness wise. However he discredited these and he had the stats to back his theories up. He did say that 3 years ago when we had 7 fractures that we would have been at the top of any injury league table if such a thing existed, but how can you possibly legislate for such a run of bad luck.

Jack Wilsheres name cropped up and Colin made the point that originally they decided Jack should rest for 4 weeks and see if an operation was really needed. After the four weeks there was no improvement so he went under the knife. Arsenal were then accused of ‘mis-diagnosis’ by the press and quite a few of our ever positive bloggers. However when Tom ‘Lip-up’ Huddlestone went through exactly the same process there was barely a mention made in the press.

Arsenal are very open about their injuries, even having the details on the website. Liverpool just don’t comment and Man Utd immediately a player is injured come out with a long term lay off and then when the player comes back earlier they are seen as miracle men. I suppose it’s down to how we want the club to play the issue, personally I think they should continue as is. They will not get things right every time but at least they are being open about things.

This openness was clearly shown by allowing various people to drop in and visit this week and I think Arsenal should be heartily congratulated for this initiative.

It was great to meet Colin, who lives in Essex and will be receiving his Arsenal Essex badge very soon and gave us a fantastic insight into another aspect of our club.

Mark Brindle