FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Throughout his first month with the New England Revolution, head coach Brad Friedel has repeatedly stated his desire to build a fit, committed group, and on Thursday he added “one of the most pivotal figures in that process” with the hiring of Anton McElhone as head of fitness.
McElhone, who spent the past 10 years working with Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League – including four alongside Friedel – brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Revolution as he’s tasked with keeping the players as fit and healthy as possible throughout the grind of a lengthy season.
“For Brad, it’s about having the best 11 players out on the pitch every week. He needs his best 11 so we can win every match,” said McElhone. “My job is to make sure that we get the best, the fittest, the strongest, the most agile team that’s actually out there on the pitch every week.”
The six-week preseason period kicking off in late January will be critical in building a base for the entire campaign, but McElhone’s work has already begun. With injury history provided by the athletic training staff of Evan Allen and Phil Madore, McElhone has used that info to put together individual workout programs for each player on the Revolution roster based on position and other key factors.
That focus on individual needs will continue throughout the year – “Everything’s dependent on the players,” McElhone said – as the staff try to build a group capable of playing with the type of strength and application that suits Friedel’s desired style.
“Myself and Brad have come from the Premier League where it’s high energy, high intensity,” said McElhone. “Brad wants to be a physical team. We want to be on the front foot, so we’ve got to have players that can actually go box-to-box, cover the distance and outrun opposition.”
Friedel has no doubts that McElhone is up to the task of molding a team capable of that approach, as the native of Scotland spent the past decade-plus working at the sport’s highest level.
“He’s just really well-versed, and he’s really well-experienced,” Friedel said. “He has trained some of the world’s very best and the world’s elite.”
McElhone has a similarly high view of Friedel, who was a player with Tottenham while McElhone was the club’s first team fitness and reconditioning coach. It was the opportunity to work alongside Friedel and head up New England’s fitness and sports science department that attracted McElhone to the job.
“It’s a massive club with massive potential,” McElhone said of the Revolution. “I think you’ve got a phenomenal manager who’s worked at the highest level in the Premier League, he’s worked in Europe, who’s up and coming, and wants to go to higher things.
“For me to come and work with a manager who’s young and energetic – and he’s got a very good team here that was underperforming – for me, it’s a massive thing."
McElhone rounds out Friedel’s hand-picked staff that also includes assistant coaches Mike Lapper and Marcelo Neveleff, as well as goalkeepers coach Ruben Garcia.
“They’re all here because they can do a good job,” Friedel said of his staff. “[Anton’s] experience is essential to the progress that we want to make as a club.”