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Europe`s Top Fitness Coach Turns Up at the Local Church Hall!

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Date: Sun 07 Feb 2021

By Steve Whitney

Terry Butcher wasn’t the only coach from the professional ranks to connect with Halesowen Town in the 1990s.

But this one proved a costly venture.

When Martial arts fitness guru Roger Spry arrived to put the Yeltz squad through the paces with Brazilian training methods of fitness, conditioning, flexibility agility and a style used by the 1970 FIFA World Cup Winners.

That superb Brazil side played that way because they trained that way.

Spry, who would later on in his career go on to be a staff coach and educator for UEFA and whose vast experience of philosophies to the elite club and international football and highly sort after by players managers and coaches, would work alongside the likes of Bobby Robson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, together with top players that included Luis Figo and Ronaldo.

Birmingham-born Spry was part of Ron Atkinson`s staff at Sheffield Wednesday and helped them get promotion and win the League Cup.

He would also be part of `Big Ron`s` coaching staff at Aston Villa.

Conditioning specialists similar to Spry are a standard appointment in the Premier League nowadays but back in the 1990s, such appointments were revolutionary.

A far contrast to the Howard Wilkinson days and Monday morning runs for players on the Yorkshire Moors!

Like most non-League clubs, finding somewhere to train was always a problem when the `cabbage patch`, as it was affectionately called by one former coach, was out of action due to bad weather.

The Southern League Midland Division club, who would get promoted that season, had to find an alternate facility for its Tuesday evening session.

The venue was the local church hall at the back of the town’s leisure centre.

It was something resembling a scene from BBC`s `Dads Army` and more suited to crab football with the cubs than a squad of semi-professional footballers being put through the paces, using the latest state-of-the-art coaching methods that the Owls squad at the time and the likes of Zico, Eder and Socrates were used too.

The church hall had wobbly partitions and the only equipment was the music system more commonly known as a `ghetto-blaster`.

Out to impress, he rested it on the partition and players put in pairs and put through the paces for around 45 minutes or so then bosh, the music stopped when it smashed on the floor!

It ended up being one of the most expensive training sessions for the club, having foot the bill with Spry in a panic because the ghetto was his equipment for his sessions with Sheffield Wednesday players the following morning.

Now, this reminds me of the famous Cloughie story when he walked into the Wimbledon dressing room and smashed the ghetto-blaster it on the floor, asking the question: “now turn it up” after they was asked three times to turn it down!

The physio at Sheffield Wednesday was Alan Smith, who had recently written a comprehensive book `Soccer Injuries Prevention and First Aid`.

I got chatting to Roger Spry, who invited me and the Halesowen gaffer John Morris to spend a day at the club, but in the end, it did not take place when he became ill on the Sunday prior to our scheduled visit to South Yorkshire.

Over the years I got to become good friends with Roger and the former Sheffield Wednesday and England Physio Alan Smith.

(Gavin Blackwell has been involved in the game for over 30 years and has shown great dedication during that time as the physio for a handful of local non-League clubs, most notably Halesowen Town, but also Oldbury United, Tividale, Stourbridge and Hednesford Town, as well as assisting the Wolves academy and WBA reserves.)

Halesowen Town Web Site

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