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First team

Harris on philosophy, processes & pre-season so far

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

“I’ve been really pleased with the application of the players from the word go, from day one of pre-season to now they’ve been very good.”

Head of performance Ally Harris has been a key part of the coaching staff working hard since arriving at the club last month and looking to get the Cherries squad in a strong position for the Championship opener with West Bromwich Albion.

Talking to afcb.co.uk, Harris spoke about working as a collective in the first three-and-a-half weeks of pre-season and the processes being worked through to get the players to where they need to be for the season ahead.

“At the moment everything is about trying to get across the manager’s philosophy,” he began. “Pre-season is there to get the players physically where we need them to be so they can all enact exactly what the manager wants on the pitch and are physically capable of doing that.

“One thing I’d have to mention is that we’ve walked into an environment where from a fitness and a sports science side there’s been some excellent processes in place previously.

“The staff that are here already have made the transition for us very easy, that’s been a massive help.

“Every management team puts different demands on its players, one thing you have to do very quickly when you come in is assess exactly where every player is, try to get a good indication of their physical profile and from that you have to ascertain how hard you can push forward and pull back each player individually.

“The playing philosophy is being drilled into them daily and a big component of that work is focused on the physicality and mentality of the group.

“The demands and expectations of the philosophy are really taxing, both as a collective and individually, but the first three-and-a-half weeks have gone well.”

The pre-fixture part of pre-season comes to an end on Friday evening with a match against Real Balompedica Linense in Marbella, with Harris talking through what the coaching staff are looking to see from the start of the action on the pitch.

“The pre-season games are part of the process,” he said. “It gives us a benchmark of how well we’ve been doing as a collective to get the philosophy across.

“From a physical side we’ll measure these games against what we regard as elite benchmarking for each position in our team and the requirements that we need them to perform for us throughout the season.

“We’ve been doing that already over the course of the first few weeks with in-house 11 v 11s blocks, trying to make sure each position is performing the intensity required, both in and out of possession for their position.

“We then give the information back to the players so they know where they’re at, the levels they need to perform at, what they’re doing in specific time periods and what is needed from them in five, ten or 15 minute maximum periods in a half or in a full game.”

The footballing philosophies are key to the way head coach Parker and his team require the players to perform, on and off the pitch, but are also pinned to the attitudes of those receiving the instructions.

“I can’t speak highly enough of how well the players have bought into things,” said Harris of the developments to date. “There are no grey areas in the manager's philosophy and clear feedback is a key part of how we work as a team and we do that in all areas.

“There are certain behaviours that we require as a team and it doesn’t matter whether that’s with the technical side, the conditioning, in the gym or in the warm-up, we demand the players to always show these behaviours.

“Having these regular conversations and feedback sessions, whether as individuals or as a small group, is a really good way of doing that and enforcing on the players all the time that we hold world-class standards as a management team and we’re always judging the players to that.”

His recent arrival has been far from a step into the unknown geographically for Harris, who is returning to a part of the world he knows well – even appearing as a youth player for AFC Bournemouth during his childhood.

“I was born in Salisbury and grew up in the area, living down here until I was 19 or 20. That’s when I moved to London to go to university to start this career path,” he said.

“I was at Bournemouth as young kid, then later played semi-professionally for Poole Town. That was 17 years ago now, Tommy Killick was the manager then and he is still now, doing incredibly well.

“It is surreal being back in the town. I have been back down this way over the years to see my family, plus my best friend is Dan Hodges who is part of the sports science team here, so I know the area well.

“I was at Fulham for 11 years and with my time at university I’d spent the last 15 years in London. But I’m delighted to be back down here again, at this wonderful club and really excited to begin a successful time here.

“Working with this manager and this management team is incredible. He has the highest standards and the responsibility he gives me and the way we all work together is a joy to be a part of. We’re a very tight knit group, who constantly challenge each other to be better at what we do.

“I can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

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