If you're the sort of person who enjoys a gentle, ease yourself in, check a few emails, make six cups of tea, watch a couple of training videos kind of first day at work, then Liverpool FC is probably not the place for you.
The Reds first days of pre-season — the first chance for Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai to get amongst it — famously involves the gruelling lactate test.
What is the lactate test?
In case you are unaware, the lactate test involves running, lots and lots of it.
The players are tasked with running around Kirkby at various intervals and paces, stopping regularly for blood samples to be taken from their ears which assess the levels of lactic acid.
Why? As explained by EKF Diagnostics, who provide some of the equipment for the test, the purpose (other than mere sadism) is to test aerobic endurance and: “learn the highest intensity at which a footballer can train or compete before hitting the wall from high levels of blood lactate.
“Testing and improving lactate threshold within a training program can be used to make stronger and faster athletes.”
Players drop out of the running drills when their acid goes above a certain level, eventually leaving one man left standing (and presumably not crying in the foetal position like the rest).
Though not unique to Liverpool, the pre-season fitness exercise has become infamous under Jurgen Klopp, with Andy Robertson describing it as "horrible" and admitting that he was "sick everywhere" during his first one back in 2018. Lovely.
The James Milner Award
One man who never seemed phased by a load of running was the famously tea-total James Milner, who positively embraced the lactate test (the big weirdo). Liverpool's former number seven won the test EVERY YEAR he was at the club between the summers of 2015 and 2022, putting much younger players to shame and leading Klopp to dub it "the James Milner Award".
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) July 6, 2019
Speaking on The Peter Crouch's Podcast, Robertson said of Milner's inhuman endurance: "Milly, I don’t think I’ll ever see anyone as fit as him.
“I remember a few years ago Kev Stewart would give him a run for his money in pre-season. But considering his age and how long he’s played for, to still be the fittest player in arguably the fittest team in the world, and by some margin, that takes some doing.”
Who won the lactate test in 2023/24?
In the absence of fitness freak Milner, there was a new lactate king to be crowned at Liverpool this summer, with the Reds sharing footage of their pre-season footage from the AXA Training Centre across their channels.
The players were split into small groups for the test, with stars returning to pre-season on different days.
Joe Gomez — perennially impressive at the test — led the Saturday group, while, Salah and Szoboszlai won the two groups who competed on Tuesday.
Who 'won' overall is unclear but Salah was singled out for special praise, with the footage showing players and staff congratulating the Egyptian as he finishes, while Klopp adds: "and the James Milner Award goes to..."
In news that bodes well for his Liverpool future, when asked what his highlight of the day was, new boy Szoboszlai — who appeared surprisingly un-sweaty after the affair — replied: "the running".
You'll do well here, Dom.