IT IS the time of season when most players are either focusing on international football or topping up their tans.
However, those who represent Everton are normally enjoying their summers with a spectre at their shoulder.
That dreaded ghoul which infiltrates their dreams and haunts their quieter moments is commonly known as David Moyes’ pre-season.
Think special forces commando bootcamp, mixed with a boxer’s pre-fight training regime, and you’re close to the back-breaking, leg-wearying, vomit-inducing slog that Everton’s players endure each summer to ensure they are among the fittest in the league.
Moyes’ methods have become legendary, and even his most experienced players like Phil Neville and Sylvain Distin fear the physical intensity they must undergo every pre-season.
But for Jimmy Lumsden, Moyes’ first team coach, the ends justify the means, even if he does have a little sympathy for those dread-filled players currently trying to forget about July’s imminent exertions.
“To be fair to the gaffer he does sometimes admit it might be a little bit old school, but he does it mostly for mental reasons rather than physical,” says the Glaswegian, who marked a decade at Goodison in March.
“If they can do these runs they can do anything. They drag each other through them and that’s an important aspect too.
“Coming to the last 10 minutes of a game, if you can drive yourself that little bit harder, go again that tiny bit quicker, than the seeds were sown in pre-season. It’s mental training.
“If you can be sharper in the last phases of most games, you have a better chances of getting more points. Our stats tend to show that.”
Himself in excellent shape, 64-year-old Lumsden is rarely happier than when on the training ground rolling balls to players or joining in with passing drills and games of ‘piggy in the middle’.
Yet he admits sometimes the size of Everton’s squad in recent campaigns has sometimes made those sessions feel a little sparse.
“Sometimes you get a lot of the same players doing the training. When it’s international duty you have maybe got six or seven players left to train where other clubs might have 12 or 13.
“Luckily the lads we have around Finch Farm are consummate professionals like Hibbo and Ossie. They are players that drive themselves on all the time, and it’s no coincidence that they often come on strong towards the end of seasons.”
Last season contained the usual mix of highs and lows, with the return of Steven Pienaar being a period which Lumsden already enjoys looking back on.
“He lifted the dressing room,” says the former Leeds United player.
“They know he’s a really good player and him and Bainsey play so well together.
“Steven is so enthusiastic in his training and everything he does. He is a quiet boy and if you didn’t know him you wouldn’t expect much, but when he steps on that pitch he has got a fantastic attitude.”
Like most supporters, Lumsden would love to see Pienaar back where he belongs next term. “Apparently he said on Twitter that it was the best three months of his life,” he says.
“Some people think the grass is greener when they go, but some clubs are made for you. Steven is made for Everton.
It’s up to Spurs whether he comes back. He is their player and we just hope something can happen.”
Like his manager, Lumsden is a naturally pragmatic sort but he is still unable to apply any optimism or perspective to his low point of the season.
The defeat by Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final is still as raw for him now as it was then.
“It was a massive, massive blow,” he says.
“The manager must take some credit after that because it was hard for him to lift it but he did. Pienaar was a big miss on the day at Wembley.
“It was such a disappointment. We never seem to perform as well as we can against Liverpool, but these things are sent to try us.
“The boys had a good end to the season which was to their immense credit because it would have been easy to think it was over and start thinking of the beach towards the end.”
Lumsden has every faith in the club’s players, but knows next season will be more challenging than ever, faced with the relentless spending of the Premier League’s top sides.
“It’s unbelievable,” he says. “I heard a Manchester City fan on a phone in just after the season ended and he was saying they needed three new players.
“The thing is, they probably will improve again. We are away at a different level, so it makes it even sweeter when we beat sides like that.
“Maybe we’re trying to maintain sixth or seventh place. You worry that if you don’t spend you’ll go backwards, but what do you do?
“If you haven’t got it you can’t spend it. I don’t know the answer.
“You see Chelsea winning the Champions League then buying Eden Hazard and looking at Hulk – we’ve got to try and get points from them next season.
“So sure it would be nice if you were sitting there with £30m and deciding how to spend it. But we have got to get on with it.
“Personally I feel it was better when seven or eight teams could win the league, but it’s changed and it’s not just here. Look at Spain where only two can win. It’s usually the same teams getting into the Champions League.
“Nevertheless we can still match these teams in games. It’s down to fitness and the way the gaffer keeps on top of the players right throughout the season.
“Those training sessions are tough; he allows them to get away with nothing. He never accepts anything but their best.”
As one of the original founder members of the Football League, Everton are a club steeped in history and tradition and have played more seasons in the top flight of English football than any other club. Their association with the greatest cup competition in the world has thus conjured some wonderful moments, and this offering from Sport Media celebrates a century of memories since their first FA Cup success in 1906. Celebrate a century of memories with 'Everton's FA Cup 100'. Read