Everton confirmed that another previous member of Rafa Benitez’s coaching staff at Newcastle United was joining him on Merseyside. 38-year-old Jamie Harley will be the new Head of Sports Science, along with longtime, trusted Benitez confidants Paco de Miguel and Antonio Gomez. The reunion with Harley demonstrates how highly the new boss thinks of Harley, as well as the importance of staffing continuity for the man often referred to as Raf.
Harley spent eleven seasons at St. James Park, first as a Sports Scientist before during Benitez’s reign with the club accepting the promotion to the post of the Head of Sports Science. Yet Harley’s deliberation once he decided to leave the Magpies lasted only so long as it took to be recruited by his old boss of three years. Regarding this decision and all that comes with it, Jamie Harley was effusive regarding the stature of his new club, as well as excited regarding his new opportunity with them.
“When the opportunity to come to Everton arose, I realised it was going to be a big challenge at a huge club, I wasn’t sure about my next step after Newcastle, although I was clear it was going to be in football...When Everton came up, it didn’t take me long to consider. The process, from hearing about the possibility, to being here, was fast.
“This is a great challenge at a really exciting time for the Club. Everton, with the size of the Club and the scale of backing and fanbase, are clearly very ambitious. They want to be in that top tier of the Premier League and everything I have seen so far is set up to do that. That is what makes it so exciting...”
The new Head of Sports Science was equally as full of kind words and observations regarding his new Sports Scientists, as well as the prospects of reuniting with the aforementioned Paco and Antonio.
“Paco is from a fitness background, so has good experience in fitness and physical conditioning, and that makes my job exciting, I feel I can be efficient with my work because Paco can understand things I want to put in place. My position involves any aspect of physical conditioning of players. It can include physical work on the pitch and in the gym, nutrition, how we manage players’ recovery between games and an element of psychology.
“There are some really good staff, with strong knowledge and experience, already at Everton. With [Sports Scientist] Dave Flower, [Head of Nutrition] Lloyd Parker and [Strength and Conditioning Coach] Jack Phillips, we have a really good sports science and nutrition and strength and conditioning background. The aim of my role is to coordinate those things and help those staff be efficient in the way the manager wants to work. I look broadly to see how we can improve the performance of players. Every player has different aspects they can improve, it is finding those areas and putting the right things in place to give them the support they need.”
Furthermore, Jamie Harley, who has a master’s degree in exercise physiology, was reflective regarding his previous three year stretch with Rafa, Paco and Antonio as well as his confidence in them and how it helped to convince him that Everton was his next destination.
“There was a learning process with Paco and Antonio and over that time we found a good way of working together, I understood really clearly the programmes and processes they like to put into place and was able to support those with my work. This is a big move for me after 11 years at one club but I was really excited by that challenge: to step into this environment, with a staff I know well and those already here...It happened really quickly but I accepted the chance to work for Everton and with Rafa and his staff straight away...”
Everton struggled with overall fitness last season, with players looking exhausted late in games in the latter half of the campaign. The hope will be that Harley and his team can help improve stamina in the squad as well as reduce the instance of soft tissue injuries that seems to have plagued a number of players over the last couple of years.