Curle delighted as players return in 'good shape', but now it's all about getting them 'football fit'
Keith Curle says he is delighted with the fitness levels of his Cobblers squad following the first week of pre-season training - but now it is all about getting the players 'football fit'.
Town play their first friendly of the summer on Saturday, when they make the short trip to United Counties League Division One side Sileby Rangers.
That is likely to be a runout for the Cobblers players against their semi-professional opponents, but it will be a very different story in the club's other pre-season friendlies.
In Spain, Town are playing a behind-closed-doors game with Bournemouth Under-23s, before taking on Sky Bet League One outfit Coventry City next Friday.
On their return home Curle's men then face three tough home encounters against Premier League Sheffield United, Championship side Sheffield Wednesday and league one side MK Dons, as well as a trip to county neighbours Brackley Town.
There are certainly no gimmes in that schedule, and that is exactly how Curle wants it.
"We are fit," said the Cobblers boss. "The players have come back in very good shape, but they are not football fit yet.
"I always advocate the best way to get fit for football is to play football, and that is why the pre-season games we have got are going to be very competitive and we are going to get tested, and we are going to get challenged.
"There are going to be demands put on the players, and that is exactly what we want from pre-season games.
"We play Bournemouth Under-23s and we play Coventry when we go to Spain, then we play Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and MK Dons, and every single one of those games is going to be a test.
"That is what we want because we want to find out about the players.
"Some managers have different thought processes and they want to build confidence and go out and play teams from lower divisions to gain that confidence, and gain that momentum.
"I want to challenge and test the players from day one."
And tested they certainly have been over the course of the first week or so of training.
Curle has ran his players hard, but also introduced footballs to the equation early, and he believes it is important for the players to be pushed hard, and to be challenged to make the right decisions when weary.
"There is a little bit of soreness and a little bit of stiffness, but we need to train under fatigue," said the Cobblers boss.
"We need to get the players at the fatigue stage, and then when you get the footballs out you find that when players are mentally and physically fatigued they can make errors.
"The purpose of them training under fatigue is to get them to make good decisions.
"Then it becomes, not so much second nature, but we want to have the mantra in place and the principles in place where we put the ball in good areas and give people licence to play.
"I have done a few pre-seasons as a player and a coach, and they are not easy.
"There are different ways of disguising the amount of running the players are doing, and some of the older players quickly recognise that a passing drill is a disguised running drill.
"But we challenge the players physically and mentally, and it is all about the reaction to that challenge.
"If you show that disappointment then that makes it even harder, but if you see it as a challenge than all you can do is your best."