Oliver Skipp back for pre-pre-season to prepare for grueling Conte sessions

While some Tottenham Hotspur players may be waiting for their Antonio Conte pre-season debut with a hint of trepidation, for Oliver Skipp the overwhelming emotions are relief and excitement.

Having last played for Spurs in January, it has been a painful and frustrating road for him to come to this.

Skipp, you will recall, had enjoyed a fine campaign, becoming a regular starter and important player for Nuno Espirito Santo and then Conte. But he’s been ruled out since January as a lingering pelvic injury that was to sideline him for days turned into weeks, and eventually months on the sidelines.

There were attempts to come back but surgery and rest proved to be the only solution. Now, after enough of the latter, the 21-year-old is ready and eager to go.

The pre-season for the majority of the team begins Next Monday July 4th. But for Skipp (along with fellow players returning from injury – Japhet Tanganga and Matt Doherty), a pre-pre-season starts today at Hotspur Way.

This week for them will largely be spent working on fitness, with the hope that Skipp will be ready to join the rest of the group when they return next week. For Tanganga and Doherty, it may take a bit longer as they recover from knee issues.

Assuming all goes according to plan, Skipp will be able to travel to South Korea with the rest of the squad on July 9 for their two pre-season friendlies. (Players who were on international duty after the club season, incidentally, will report later than next Monday, but still with time for a training session or two before the flight to Korea.)

Ahead of today’s return to Hotspur Way, Skipp has already worked hard away from the training ground. He also managed to have a holiday and is said to look well rested and strong. It is expected to fly at the start of the pre-season proper.

This is a time when Skipp normally excels. After showing promise in the 1,500m as a youngster, he’s still up in the running stats at the club – especially with the departure of Dele Alli. Over the past summers, he has been working hard on his fitness ahead of the official start of Spurs’ pre-seasons.

After the frustrating second half of last season, getting into the best possible physical shape is paramount for Skipp.

“The obvious thing is to get in shape,” Skipp said in April, when signing a long-term contract that reflected his hugely increased importance within the team. “It will happen, and then when I’m back it’s to continue on this first half of the season that I’ve had. I feel like there’s a lot more (to come) and the next level that I can reach, and I’m really looking forward to showing it when I’m back I think pre-season will be huge for me again to make sure I’m 100% for the start of next season and to really redouble our efforts.

This new contract is one of many things that have changed in the five months since Skipp last appeared.

At the time, his teammates were still getting used to Conte’s November nomination methods, and they lost three consecutive league games after Skipp’s last start to the season against Leicester (he came on with Tottenham already 2- 0 against Chelsea four days later).

Skipp’s importance to the team was clearly demonstrated in his absence. After the latest of those three straight defeats, former Spurs midfielder turned TV pundit Jermaine Jenas said his value to the team had “exploded”.

Skipp was a key figure in Tottenham’s midfield before an injury ended his season in January (Picture: Getty)

But Spurs leveled off and then soared, propelling Arsenal to fourth and last place in the Premier League in the Champions League – helped in large part by the January signing of Rodrigo Bentancur, who more than filled the void created by Skipp’s unavailability. They have also added Brighton & Hove Albion’s Yves Bissouma to their central midfield options, so Skipp will face plenty of competition. He will also largely be competing against players who have had many more months to acclimate to Conte’s demands.

On the first point, the reintroduction of five substitutes for the new Premier League season and the fact that Tottenham now have to manage the considerable demands of at least six midweek Champions League matches means that Skipp’s four, Bissouma , Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will get plenty of minutes. Conte also wants Spurs to move away from the idea of ​​having a fixed first XI – the team should all be pushing each other for starting places.

Skipp is aware of the importance Conte places on him, as evidenced by the head coach’s caps, his words and his constant urging of his medical staff last season to try and speed up the midfielder’s recovery.

His dedication meant that Skipp was still able to absorb a lot of Conte’s instructions, even if he couldn’t carry them out. He continued to attend team meetings during his rehabilitation, determined to keep learning after learning so much working closely with Conte during his first months in charge.

“Even when I was injured, I attended all the meetings and watched the training, so even if you’re not on the grass, you still understand the concepts he wants, philosophy; I think that’s always something I’ve tried to do, take more information,” Skipp said two months ago. “I’m really interested in tactics and I understand what he expects different players on the pitch.”

Part of the reason Skipp and Conte immediately clicked are their shared characteristics. Temperamentally, they could hardly be more different – ​​the reserved youngster and the vocal, volatile head coach – but they have common traits in terms of complete dedication and hard work.

And that will be especially evident in the weeks ahead when Skipp, who is naturally very fit and loves the challenge of pushing his body to its limits, will be tested like never before by Conte’s notoriously tough pre-season schedule. The double sessions players have to expect will be taxing, but Skipp sees Conte as someone players are willing to go the extra mile for.

The challenge for Skipp, along with Tanganga and Doherty, won’t be too much too soon.

Storytelling sessions are ruthless and players will need to be watched carefully. That’s part of what this week is about, helping Skipp and others navigate the transition to full throttle in the weeks ahead.

Conte wants and demands that Spurs be the fittest team in the league and that no one finishes games stronger than them. The foundations for this will be laid on the training ground ahead of the first game of the season, at home to Southampton on Saturday August 6.

But assuming he passes next week, Conte’s brutal pre-season drills will almost feel blissful for Skipp compared to those agonizing months he was out last season. When he had to wait longer to make his comeback. It’s easy to lose sight of how frustrating that was for Skipp, especially given how well he played at the time in what was still a breakout campaign for him after spending 2020-21 on loan. to Norwich City in the Championship. There has even been talk of a senior call-up to England.

“It’s been a really frustrating time for me,” he said in April. “The hardest part was the unknown. When I came out before, you knew you had a set time, two months and so on. But with this one, it was just about being patient and c “It’s something that happens in football careers. I’ll definitely make sure when I’m back I’m right.

Hopefully that moment is now, with today hopefully marking the start of a new chapter for Skipp as he looks to build on last season’s breakthrough.

(Top photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)


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