Ilkeston boss Paul Holland took a page out of the SAS handbook this week by playing mind games with his squad before putting them through a hellish training session.
Holland has been preparing his men for the visit of Barwell in the FA Trophy on Saturday and led his young group of players to believe they might have a ‘fun day’ in midweek.
But when the players arrived on Tuesday, hoping for some kind of treat, Holland put them through their most gruelling session to date.
The manager, who has guided Ilkeston to four wins in their last five games, revealed: “I played a few mind games this week.
“I said somewhere along the line there might be a fun day and when they came in expecting fun, they had the hardest session they’ve had so far.”
Holland’s trick is something you might see on Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins, and the aim is probably something similar.
“They’re going to be tested mentally,” he said.
“They’ve had a brilliant attitude, both young and old.
“They know I won’t let them rest on their laurels and be satisfied, I will keep stretching them.”
The former Chesterfield and Mansfield Town man isn’t a complete tyrant however, he admits his young charges have done well of late.
Ilkeston would sit comfortably in midtable if they won their games in hand and the boss says their delayed start to competitive football due to off-field events took a toll they’ve done well to overcome.
“For the age of our squad and the start they’ve had to the season, full credit to the players,” he said.
“It has been a difficult start but they’ve proven what strength in depth we have and the quality we have.”
One player catching the eye has been goalscorer Malachi Lavelle-Moore.
The 21-year-old has four goals in three games.
Holland said: “Malachi has come in and he will admit he’s way off full fitness due to circumstances at the start of the season.
“He’s got quality, we have it throughout the squad, even though they’re very young.”
The average age of Holland’s players means there is one facet of the game they’re yet to master.
But their manager, a veteran of over 300 Football League appearances, knows all about it: “They’re still learning the nasty side of the game.
“If I can get them to learn how to manage games they will be fine.
“They need a lot of work on the nasty side, but they’re a great group to work with.”
Eyeing the FA Trophy game against fellow Northern Premier League side Barwell, Holland says it’s a game his side can win.
They proved as much earlier this month with a 1-0 league victory.
Holland added: “If we’re right we can win the game, if we’re not right we can come unstuck.
“It’s a massive competition for non-league clubs and fans and I will treat it as I would any important first team game.
“We want to progress as far as we can.”