The views on this page are taken from the local and national media and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton.
Defender Sylvain Distin has turned down the opportunity to take a belated step into international football – so he can keep himself in the best possible shape for the new season with Everton.
The 33-year-old French-born defender was invited to represent Guadeloupe in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA this summer.
Distin is eligible to play for the Caribbean island nation through his father. But he feared the lengthy Gold Cup commitment would have a negative impact on his preparations for the 2011/12 campaign with Everton.
So he chose to rest up early in the summer before joining the Blues’ training camp in the Austrian Alps this week.
Distin said: “I am 33 now so it made it a difficult choice. My dad is from Guadeloupe and they asked me to play in the Gold Cup.
“It was a tough (decision). I played every game last season and I thought it better to think about the club rather than going to the Gold Cup.”
He added: “It was tempting. It may not be a big nation but it was an interesting offer and it is part of my roots and important to me. I was proud that they asked me but I would have been too tired. It was too big a gamble and I decided to be sensible and stay home and get some rest.”
Distin missed out on international honours with France after breaking into the game via non-league football across the channel.
He played for Tours and Gueugnon before signing for Paris St-Germain in 2000. Two years later he joined Manchester City in a £4million deal after showing his aptitude for English football during a 28-game loan spell with Newcastle United.
A freedom of contract move to Portsmouth followed in 2007 and two years ago Everton manager David Moyes snapped up Distin for £5 million.
The Frenchman has been a consistent performer at centre-back and full-back, making 81 Everton appearances, 444 of them last season.
Everton’s high altitude training in Austria this week has left Distin feeling relieved about taking some rest during the summer. He said: “It is tough. We started really hard with lots of running. You don’t use the ball much so the first week is not that much fun!
“It is nice to be away but it is a lot of training. The season is so long you have to do all the hard work before it starts and this week will give us that foundation.”
THE fitness regime for Everton’s pre-season training camp in the Austrian Alps this week is carefully worked out by David Moyes’ backroom staff months in advance.
So meticulous are the preparations that players even have to follow specific procedures during the few weeks of rest between the end of one season and the start of work for the next.
Fitness coach Steve Tashjian explained: “We were happy after the initial day of testing with the level of fitness the boys maintained over the summer break.
"That is testament to their professionalism.
"They are committed -- and to see them this ready to go again for another season is excellent.
“We want to make sure they rest and recover properly.
"It is a difficult season for them and we don’t want them to burn out or feel that their bodies have not recovered.
“We give them freedom to start with and they get probably a couple of weeks when they are off with their families and they let their bodies and minds recover.
"After that they get a progressive programme of strength, fitness and speed work so that they are ready for pre-season.
"We don’t expect them to be 90-minutes fit when they come back.
"They just need to be ready for what comes their way when they come back.”
Tashjian added: “The staff begin planning a trip like this at the start of the calendar year. Everyone from the manager down is involved.
"As we get nearer the trip, the coaching staff meet far more frequently and we start to formulate training programmes.
”Austria is really about developing a base.
"The one thing we also take into consideration is that we also use the trip to start building the mentality the manager wants in the group of players.
"Everton is renowned for spirit and fight and building that again starts in Austria.
"We want to build a team spirit and that is taken into consideration when we plan the training sessions for a trip like this one.”
Tashjian is familiar with the sound of players moaning about how tough the going is.
He said: “They whinge because they know they have a hard week of training ahead of them, but as long as they do the work then they can moan all they want because they will have earned the right to tell us how their muscles feel.
“We have got a great group of players here, they’ll work really hard this week and I am sure we will have another really good pre-season.”
Andy Lonergan will choose between Leeds or Everton in the next 48 hours.
The 27-year-old Preston keeper was ready to tie up a £200,000 move to Elland Road.
But Everton, who took on Lonergan for training last season, have made a late counter-move.
Phil Neville: It hurts! This is my 18th go at pre-season training... believe me it doesn't get any easier.
Pre-season training. They are the three words that fill every footballer with a sense of dread and I am yet to meet a player who looks forward to that first day back after a break.
This is my 18th pre-season and you might think the older you are, the easier it gets. But that is never the case. The only thing that changes from when you are a young professional is that you know the work is not going to kill you.
Given the advances in sports science and technology, there are so many things different to when I first started at Manchester United but, equally, one thing hasn’t changed.
As was the case all those years ago, the next five weeks are all about making sure you are fit for the opening day. That will always be the same.
One key change in the last few years has been the fact players now get exercise programmes to stick to during the summer break and each one is tailored to each individual’s physical capacity.
At Everton, everyone is allowed two weeks of doing nothing but then you have to start ticking over. Managers and coaches trust their players to come back in good shape. When everyone gets weighed on the first day back, you will only see a marginal difference in their weight and body-fat reading compared to the final game of the previous season.
The pressure to look after yourself is more intense than 20 years ago, when players tended to have a good blowout. During my career I’ve never seen anyone report back seriously overweight and there is not much chance of that happening now. Rest is important but so is staying in condition.
Inevitably, there will be sessions in the first week that stretch you to the absolute limit of your physical capabilities — and I can assure you that being plunged into a freezing river in the Austrian Alps is one of those things. We had that ‘pleasure’ yesterday.
You will have heard stories of players running so much that they end up being sick and I can confirm they are true. I have seen it happen. Perhaps the funniest incident I’ve ever witnessed was a couple of years ago with Everton in St Andrews Bay. David Moyes enjoys making us run up sand dunes until we are at a standstill but, for one of my team-mates, it all became too much.
His legs buckled on one descent and he went head first into the sand. As you can imagine, there was uproar among those who were watching. The man in question, though, did not find it funny and he wanted to let the manager know.
Unfortunately for him, his head had gone that far underground that when he came to speak his mind, all that ended up coming out was a mouthful of sand.
There is one session that David Moyes puts on for Everton’s squad which still puts the fear of God up me. Every year you know it is coming but there is nothing you can do about it.
As was the case when he told us to follow the fitness coaches into the river, the manager takes great pleasure in seeing how much it makes the players squirm. Basically ‘the horse shoe’ is a series of sharp runs that cover distances between 100metres and 300m and there is barely any time to catch your breath in between.
By the time you are on your eighth sprint, your legs feel like jelly and buckle, while your lungs are burning. The manager, meanwhile, simply laughs as you collapse. It feels like torture but it clearly pays off as we take pride at Everton in the fact no team will ever out-run us during the season.
One of the great things about pre-season is seeing the young players who have been promoted from the academy joining in for the first time. In certain ways, the first five weeks they spend with the seniors can be some of the most important in their careers.
I remember joining in at Manchester United for the first time. We used to warm up doing an exercise called ‘strides’, which was a run you would do at three-quarter speed just to get you breathing heavier and warmed up. Brian Kidd would always take that session and, on this particular day, Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel were at the head of the group, leading the runs, while I settled into the middle, thinking it would be a good idea to just try to blend in. It wasn’t.
After a couple of runs, Peter dropped back through the pack and before I realised what was going on, he was jostling me. Peter is an intimidating man and when he speaks, you listen. He basically said it was wrong to ever think you could take it easy. He knew I was a good runner so was not impressed that I hadn’t tried to push on at the front.
That’s why now, whenever we’ve had a tough session and you can hear the young ones saying how tired they are, myself and a few of the other lads will say we feel great. Even if we feel anything but!