BLACKBURN Rovers’ warm weather training camp will be the centerpiece of their pre-season programme.
As it will be in the heat of the Algarve where Gary Bowyer’s players will build up the core fitness needed to get them through another gruelling 46-game Championship campaign which, they hope, will end with promotion back to the Premier League.
But the man who has played a major part in putting the camp together, head of sports science Chris Neville, may not be there to oversee it.
As with any luck he will be flying back to England after playing his part in a historic World Cup triumph.
Neville will be one of England’s conditioning coaches in Brazil – another is Manchester United’s Tony Strudwick, formerly of Rovers – and so he was part of the Three Lions party that landed in Rio on Sunday.
The party yesterday headed to Manaus, ahead of tomorrow's Group D opener with Italy in the Amazon rainforest (11pm), before returning to their Rio base to prepare for their clashes with Uruguay in Sao Paulo on June 19 (8pm) and Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on June 24 (5pm).
Should England progress through their ‘group of death’ and to the round of 16 Neville would not be present at Brockhall when Rovers return for pre-season training on July 2.
And should Roy Hodgson’s men make it all the way to the final in Rio on July 13, and attempt to win the World Cup for only the second time, then Neville would be forced to miss Rovers’ week-long trip to Portugal which starts the following day.
But he has no concerns.
“From my perspective pre-season is a very important leading up to the start of the season but I’m really lucky at Rovers that I’ve got some great staff that work with us,” said Neville.
“The manager has been really accommodating to my England commitments and we have done lots of planning for pre-season as you can imagine.
“We do have to plan far in advance – our tour has been booked for quite a while – and I’m very lucky to have some great staff here that work with us and will look out for the boys if it so happens that I don’t come back early.”
It will be Neville’s second World Cup.
The 43-year-old acted as a masseur for Sven Goran Eriksson’s squad in Germany in 2006 before being invited back on the backroom staff, in a new role, by England’s former Rovers boss Hodgson before the 2012 European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.
Neville admits the chance to experience a Brazilian World Cup will be the highlight of a career that included a stint working alongside David Beckham as LA Galaxy’s fitness coach.
And the former goalkeeper, who was forced to retire after just one first-team appearance for Ipswich Town, headed to South America on the back of what he believes was one of his best seasons in football as revitilised Rovers just missed out on the play-offs.
“I’ve been lucky to work in football for a few years now and this last one has been one of my most enjoyable seasons, in terms of the changes that have been made and the demographic of the players who have come in,” said Neville, who arrived at Ewood Park in January 2013 after following then manager Michael Appleton from Portsmouth.
“The players have been great to work with and the manager has worked tirelessly to make sure the environment is right, not just for the players but for all the staff.
“It was a really, really good season and we certainly progressed from last season when we finished 17th. We had a much bigger points haul and only just missed out on the play-offs.
“That, combined with our 12-match unbeaten streak, means we will go into next season with plenty of confidence.”