Matchday recovery session

By: Tony Daley

It is important for players to ensure their bodies recover well from the rigours of matchday, so this session is designed as a recovery programme to be conducted no more than 24 hours after the game.

The main reason for doing this is to prevent injuries suffered post-match. We need to reduce fatiguing effects as soon as possible, because in a tired state they are more likely to suffer tweaks and knocks.

Our final league game in October was a Saturday Premier League clash against Manchester City, which we won 2-1. Sunday was therefore designated as a rest day, with Monday the recovery day, which included this session. By conducting this, we enabled players to be ready again for full training on the Tuesday.

What do I get the players to do?

Recovery Session schedule

To play for 90 minutes is demanding, but we are always looking for players to be disciplined and to adopt good habits. This applies as much on the training ground as it does on the pitch. The sooner players are active and training again, the better their condition, and the fresher they will be for the next game.

The basis of the Recovery Session is a combination of lap running and stretches.

Players jog around a full-size pitch three times at a very gentle pace. The aim of this is to get joints moving but only in the form of a light jog. Vary the pace of the laps slightly, but each of the first two should be taken at less than 50% of running speed – not much more than walking pace. This helps to get the body at the correct temperature whilst allowing the muscles to move and relax.

A gentle jog also helps to disperse lactic acid around the body. This makes muscles contract more efficiently, and helps the players’ ability to recover.

During the third lap, include gentle dynamic stretches as the players are moving, concentrating on the groin and hamstrings. The dynamic stretches should be conducted as explained in the table below:



Lateral movement, bend knee, straight upper body, swing arms. Continue over 10 metres, then repeat on the opposite side.


Over 10 metres, laterally, bring the left leg up and down in a circular motion (do not bring left leg across the right). Then repeat on the opposite side.

Side groin drops

Conduct side steps, followed by three side squats, then repeat on the opposite side.

Wide skips

Skip with legs bent and raised, facing outwards. Repeat over 10 metres.



High leg raise

Walk a distance of 10 metres, raising a straight leg with each step at a comfortable height. Keep the head forward and the upper body still. Then jog back to the start and repeat.

Russian walk

Walking, raise a bent leg towards the chest, then straighten leg out – the movement is similar to a door in front of you that you are trying to scrape your studs down. Keep the head forward and the upper body still. Jog back and repeat.

Stork stretch

Walking, lean forward with a straight leg, then raise leg backwards at 45 degrees. This pattern of movement should be done with every step. Repeat over 10 metres then jog back.

Quick feet hamstring

Over 10 metres, shuffle feet in numerous directions for a couple of metres followed immediately by touching toes with a slightly bent lower limb. Repeat over 10 metres.

Hamstring clap

In a dynamic manner, raise leg and clap hands underneath raised lower limb. Continue over 10 metres then jog back to the start.

Static stretches

At the completion of the three laps, players assemble in a group to perform static stretches. Here we concentrate on each muscle group for no more than 20 seconds, but will repeat the stretches two or three times. For static stretches, we concentrate on the quads, hamstrings, calfs and groin.  Two sets of each stretch below should be performed, at 15 seconds per stretch.

Static calf stretch

• Starting with the left calf, stand facing a wall at arms’ length. Place hands on the wall at shoulder height, then step back slightly with the left leg, keeping the back upright. Keeping your weight through the left heel, sway forwards onto a slightly bent right knee. You should feel a stretch in your left calf. Repeat on the right.

Static groin stretch

• Sit with soles of the feet together on the floor and close to the body. Grasp feet with both hands and position elbows on the inside of the lower legs. Press knees towards the floor with elbows and hold the stretch.

Side-lying quad stretch

• Lie on your side with the leg to be worked positioned on top of the other. Reach back and grasp the ankle. Relax the leg and gently pull the ankle towards your buttocks.

Hamstring wall stretch 

• Lie on your back with a leg elevated and positioned against a doorway wall, as shown. Buttocks should be about five inches from the wall, and your back flat on the floor. Gently slide your buttocks towards the wall, keeping the knee straight, until a stretch is felt. Relax and repeat.