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Michael Jamie Clegg
Sunderland A.F.C. Strength & Conditioning Coach 2006 - Current
Manchester United Defender 1995-2000
Michael Jamie Clegg - Career

Mike Clegg - Black Cats CoachMike Clegg - Black Cats Coach

Mike was a former defender at Manchester United football club. He began his football career as a trainee with Manchester United and signed the apprentice forms two days after his sixteenth birthday in July 1993. He was a member of the 1995 FA Youth Cup-winning side, playing at center-half in the first leg of the final. He also won The Reserve Team Player of the Year for Season 1997/98. He turned professional soon afterwards, he signed a professional contract in July 1995 and he was pro for 7 years. He was captain of the reserves, where he captained United's reserve team to their Manchester Senior Cup Final victory over Oldham Athletic and played 23 times for the first team.

During his time at Manchester United Mike also made appearances for England’s U21’s. He made his first team debut on 23 November 1996 in the Premiership game away to Middlesbrough which finished as a 2–2 draw. He retained his place in the side for the following week's League (Coca Cola) Cup visit to Leicester City,  where his performance earned him rave reviews.  

He played in four FA Premier League games in the 1996-97 season and although United were champions for the fourth time in fifth season it was not enough for a title winner's medal. He managed a further three appearances in 1997-98 when United were trophy less for only the second time in the decade. 

During the 1998/99 season, his first team chances were restricted to Worthington Cup fixtures. Michael found it hard to break into the First Team making just five appearances in 1999/2000 campaign. This was when United won their sixth title in eight seasons, but once again Mike failed to meet the required number of appearances for a title winner's medal.  

Having gained first team experience at United, Mike then spent a time on loan at Ipswich Town, Wigan Athletic before joining Oldham Athletic. In his first season, Oldham qualified for the Division two playoffs, but at that time the club then went into Administration and Mike helped a heavily shap

ed squad from relegation in his final season. He retired from professional football at the tender age of 27.

After he retired he was personally chosen and appointed by former team mate/manager Roy Keane in the autumn of 2006 to take on the role as Sunderland’s strength and conditions coach. Mike Clegg joined Sunderland as strength and conditioning coach in October 2006 a position which he still holds to date.

Mike Clegg showing an example of a hex-bar deadlift to the Sunderland 1st team on pre-season tour in the Toronto (2015)Mike Clegg showing an example of a hex-bar deadlift to the Sunderland 1st team on pre-season tour in the Toronto (2015)

 Skysports Keith in Training!

Skysports Keith Downie was put through his paces by strength and conditioning coach Mike Clegg when he arrived at Sunderland's training complex.



Mike Clegg - Strength and Conditioning coach - Sunderland Football ClubMike Clegg - Strength and Conditioning coach - Sunderland Football ClubMike's Football Career Summary

Position: Fullback

National team: England

MU Career: Seasons:6

Appearances: 24 (15 starts + 9 subs)

Goals per match: 0.00

First appearance: 23 November 1996, aged 18

Last appearance: 5 November 2001, aged 23

MU career: 5.0 years

First start: Saturday 23 November 1996

First sub: Sunday 11 May 1997

Last start: Tuesday 28 November 2000

Last sub: Monday 5 November 2001

Other Clubs (* loan)  

Before: none
During: Ipswich Town*, Wigan Athletic*
After: Oldham Athletic

Mike Clegg Gallery


Matchday Programme feature on Mike Clegg - 6th October 2013

Manchester United vs Sunderland

Born in Ashton under line on the July 1977 Michael Jamie Clegg joined Manchester United youth academy aged 15 and was part of the FA youth cup winning side of 1995 that beat Tottenham Hotspur in the final. The red Devils had run the same competition three years earlier and with a team containing the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky butt and Gary Neville all, of course, went on to establish themselves in an ultra-successful man United first-team.

"It was extremely hard for players a few years younger than them to break into the first team, given the quality of that previous batch of young players and also the player's the club was signing, recalls Clegg." "Not many of us (the FA youth cup winning team of 1995) got a first-team great... I suppose the next youth side with a lot of names breaking through included John O'Shea and Wes Brown: now with Sunderland of course."

Clegg would make 24 appearances for the first team in all competitions, including nine in the Premier league and one in the champions league quarter-finals against Monaco for Manchester United between 1996 and 2002. His debut came in Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium on 23 November 1996.

"I have never travelled with the first team before, so when I was told on Thursday to report on the Friday I was going to travel to match at Middlesbrough, I thought it was just give me experience", smiles Clegg. "When I arrived at the stadium and realised my shirt was in the starting line-up next to the likes of Peter Schmeichel, Eric Cantona and David Beckham the reality of the occasion became real."

"Bobby Charlton used to travel with the first team and he put his arm around me before the match and said just enjoy today... It's everybody's dream to play for United and you're just living the dream. I was pleased with my performance in the game. We drew 2 to when Middlesbrough had some very very dangerous attackers like Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli."

"I was named on the substitutes bench that day and at halftime Alex Ferguson told me to go out to collect the award," he explains, "when I came back in he said get changes going on. I played the second half and we won 2-0 and I was part of the trophy presentation as the United had won the Premier league again."

It was a Manchester United legend responsible for bringing Clegg to the Stadium of light when his playing days ended, with the defender having represented Ipswich town (loan), Wigan athletic (loan) and Oldham athletic during his professional career between 1995 and 2004. "I move to Sunderland with Roy Keane 2006 which was strange in a way, as it did know why the social level and it hardly ever spoken says Clegg. Roy Keane approached me knowing I'd retired from football to in a half years earlier and that I'd change career into strength and conditioning." Mike was mentored through his father who was Manchester United strength and conditioning coach.


Matchday Programme feature on Mike Clegg - 06/10/13  Matchday Programme feature on Mike Clegg - 06/10/13

Muscle & Fitness Features
Strength & Condition Coaches
Interview with Mike Clegg  - Sunderland FC
November 2010
 Mike Clegg interview with Muscle & FitnessMike Clegg interview with Muscle & Fitness
It’s 10.00am on a Monday morning and the Sunderland squad is being put through a gentle activation and plyometrics session at the club’s training ground. Darren Bent is doing slow, one-legged hops along a white line; Kieran Richardson is leaping languidly on to some low boxes; three other players are each balancing on one leg on half Swiss balls while lobbing a ball to each other. Considering how fit the players are they could probably do this in their sleep but they get on with it quietly, uncomplaining, knowing this is the precursor to more intensive workouts that day. One of those sessions will be weight training, which may sound unremarkable to regular gym users but weights and footballers don’t always mix.

Even today, with zillions of pounds swishing around the game, some clubs still take a laissez-faire approach to working out, thinking it has little impact on performance. Not Sunderland: they are leading the way and the club’s steady climb up the Premier League in recent years suggests it isn’t doing any harm. The man overseeing the players’ workouts is Michael Clegg, 33. Michael could hardly be better qualified for the job: he spent eleven years as a professional footballer, seven of which were at no lesser club than Manchester United where he appeared in a Champions League quarter-final against Monaco in 1998. He also played for Ipswich, Wigan and Oldham. His weight training credentials are equally impressive.

Michael hails from what could be described as England’s first family of strength. One of his brothers is a top strongman competitor; another is an international weightlifter while his dad, Mike, is the strength and conditioning coach at Manchester United. The weights-loving family also owns Olympic Sports gym in Ashton-under-Lyne. This is a family for whom weights are not a job or hobby but a way of life. “I have been in gyms since the age of 11,” says Michael. “Football was the prelude to me doing the job I love to do. I don’t see it as second best to being a player. I much prefer doing this. It’s better suited to my nature.”

Michael and his brothers were introduced to weights in his early teens by dad Mike, a former bass player on the Yorkshire club scene who like many people started working out to put on a bit of size and ended up falling in love with it. “It stopped me from messing about on the streets,” says Michael, who won a national schools’ Olympic weightlifting competition before signing for Manchester United at the age of 16. “I stopped competing at weightlifting when I signed for United but I still trained,” says Michael. Even the mighty Manchester United were ambivalent about weights in the mid-1990s, when the Premier League was new and budgets much smaller. “A club’s medical team back then consisted of a doctor, physio and masseur,” says Michael. “Now there is a doctor, up to five physios, two or three sports masseurs, a sports scientist, a strength and conditioning coach and a nutritionist. It’s changed massively.”

Michael was a perfect example of what weights could achieve. “I wasn’t the best player but when it came to the strength and power tests I was the best,” he says. The club was so impressed by what his dad had helped his son to achieve they offered him a job, initially with the youth team until Steve McClaren promoted him to the first team during his tenure as assistant manager. When Michael’s playing career ended he spent a summer teaching Olympic lifting to United’s youth team players. Roy Keane must have been impressed because when he became Sunderland manager he offered Michael a job. Michael now works for another former Manchester United player, Steve Bruce. He says the set-up at Sunderland has changed dramatically during his time there, largely because of the influence of chairman Niall Quinn. “There was no strength and conditioning coach or sports scientist when I joined in October 2006,” says Michael. “It’s totally different now.” Goalkeeper’s Galore At 10.30am the five first team, reserve and youth goalkeepers at the club emerge in the gym for a weights session. Goalkeepers are a breed apart, with their own fitness requirements, so Craig Gordon, Marton Fulop, Simon Mignolet, Trevor Carson and Ben Wilson train together.

It’s one of the first pre-season sessions and they’re training legs. “For the first team there is a five-week period before the first game where the emphasis is on aerobic work and a little bit of strength,” says Michael. “This is the hardest period for the players. They feel their aches. When the season gets underway the volume comes down and the weights increase. We might do five sets of five of power cleans and squats, that kind of thing.” Today, however, the weights are light and the reps are high. The players are still feeling their way back from summer breaks. Craig and Martin train together and begin with three sets of deadlifts weighing no heavier than 35 kg. Afterwards the goalies do three sets of broomstick squats, again using low weights. “They’re just getting the muscle memory back at this stage,” says Michael. “We don’t worry about the weights at all. The goalies are tall and some of them struggle to get down to 90 degrees. Michael is quick to remind them. “Nice and deep – that’s good Craig.” Next up are lunges. “Take that left leg further forward, Simon.” The single leg squats that follow have these six-footers struggling to balance as they go down, which is the aim of the exercise. This isn’t about getting bulky; it’s about combining resistance training with movement to develop functional muscle. The last exercise is single-leg Swiss ball hamstring curls, which starts with the players lying on their backs with their hips on the floor, one foot slightly raised and one foot on the ball. They then roll their foot along the ball to elevate their bodies before returning to the starting position.

Hamstring injuries are amongst the most common in football so these kind of exercises for backs of legs are common. When the resistance training is done the goalkeepers swap the weights room for the adjoining cardio area. Four of them jump on stationery bikes and peddle furiously for four intense five-second bursts. Each burst is followed by a slower five seconds to cool down. While they cycle, the fifth goalie does continuous press-ups. When they’re finished they rotate so each player has four turns on the bike and one doing press-ups. Michael provides running encouragement. “Go on – deep, deep deep… faster, faster faster… come on!” At the end he gives them a recovery drink. They’re done.

Mike’s Philosophy - After lunch in the club canteen, Michael talks a bit more about weight training and football. “It’s getting to be a part of most clubs now,” he says. “Younger managers are bringing it in.” The biggest barrier remains the misconception that it will make you bulky, something Michael is constantly at pains to dismiss. “Anyone who thinks we train like a bodybuilder could not be more wrong,” he says. “That would be detrimental. We need slim players with strong muscles. We don’t want to produce big muscles. We want wiry physiques that don’t get injured.” Because of this the players rarely work in sets of 10 because that promotes hypertrophy. “For strength, we do 85 per cent of one-rep max for five reps,” says Michael. “For power, we do 30 to 50 per cent of one-rep max for two or three reps and for muscle endurance we do sets of 12 or 15. The only time we do sets of 10 is when we are working with the youth team or underdeveloped players.” The sets and reps change frequently but some exercises – squats, power cleans, jerks and lunges – are constantly part of the mix.

Olympic lifts and their derivatives are king. “When I joined we had machine after machine in the gym,” says Michael. “I got rid of a lot of them and got eight squat racks instead. My philosophy is: Olympic lifting training is the best you can do.” Michael’s also a fan of ‘Dragans’ – a curl and press exercise named after pioneering strength endurance expert Dragan Radovic, who combines biceps curls and dumbbell presses into one exercise. “But we do it with our eyes closed standing on one leg,” says Michael.

The players do a lot of lifting on one leg or on Swiss balls to utilise a range of muscles and develop core strength. Michael’s also a fan of kettlebells, which are kept in the gym. Although the players don’t train for bulk some are pretty strong. “They squat up to 140 kg and do single leg squats to 100 kg, and power cleans to 70 kg or 80 kg,” says Michael. Who is the strongest player? He thinks for a minute before nominating Trinidadian striker Kenwyne Jones. No surprise there. Naturally, some players are more enthusiastic about working out than others. “We try and counteract any lack of enthusiasm by making sure the sessions are short and sharp,” says Michael. “The reserves are eager to do what they can to make the first team. The first team can have a different opinion but over time seeing their performance improve helps.” It’s difficult to measure the value of strength training in a sport like football.

Since Michael arrived the club got promoted to the Premier League in 2006/07, finished 15th in 2007/08, 16th in 2008/09 and 13th last season. Obviously this is down to a myriad of factors but gym work is one of them. Weights can certainly help to correct any injury-causing muscle imbalances. Strong quadriceps and weak hamstrings can lead to injuries blighting whole seasons or careers – not what clubs want on their multi-million pound signings. But Michael’s input is limited. “Football is always going to be the priority,” he says. “I get one hour with the 1st Team Players on Monday and Tuesday and 20 minutes on a Thursday, plus 15 minutes activation every morning to prevent injury. If strength and conditioning work had a three per cent improvement on the player’s performance level, I would take that. “We’ve got a massive chance now of moving forward. That’s down to the manager and his support staff, the players and to a degree what the strength and conditioning coaches do.”

Having been a player and strength and conditioning coach, Michael knows who is first in line for praise when things go well. But he’s happy with that. “Playing for United was a fantastic feeling but my temperament is better suited to coaching,” he says. “Being in the limelight didn’t really suit me. I want to help people succeed and this job enables me to do that.” M&F
Sunderland’s weekly schedule:

Saturday – match
Sunday – rest
Monday – recovery, upper body and core workout
Tuesday – legs session followed by intense running session
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – endurance session or explosive session featuring squats, power cleans and sprints
Friday – game preparation

Weight Training For Footballers
Under-16s: “It’s all about technique. A lot of kids play computers so their posture is hunched.”
Youth teams aged 16 to 18: “We start to use overload principles and put some weight on the bar.”
Reserves: “We put them through their paces and demand a lot. We are trying to develop men who can compete at the highest level. We do a lot of plyometrics and power exercises.”
First team: “A lot of players have been bought from other clubs so there is a range of development. Some guys from South America or Asia might never have done weights; others are highly trained. Some older players might never have done any weights either. Some have to concentrate on hypertrophy to catch up with the others but generally at this level weight training helps to maintain and increase strength as well as prevent injury.” 


Mike Clegg M&F Gallery


Barbados Legends Tournament 2012

About The Event

"Football has always been known as the beautiful game. But now it’s going to get itself a tan, unwind on the beach and become the gorgeous game. Barbados as a country is extremely honoured to be the first venue for this very prestigious event which will see the classic style of play, strength and goal scoring ability of some of the best players of the past decade in the English premiership."
Staged at the cricket venue, the Kensington Oval, teams represented Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Blackburn, Newcastle, the Professional Footballers’ Association and an all-star side from the surrounding islands. Among the star names on the roster were Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola, Mike Clegg, Gus Poyet, Alan Shearer, Gaizka Mendieta, Lee Clark, Nolberto Solano, John Jensen, Michael Thomas. Brian Lara, Dennis Wise, Kevin Pilkington, Dwight Yorke and Andy Cole.
Manchester United, with Mike Clegg one of the players representing the team, went on to win the silverware and Mike was overjoyed as he held aloft the cup.

Mike Clegg Barbados Legends Tournament 2012 playing for Manchester UnitedMike Clegg Barbados Legends Tournament 2012 playing for Manchester United

Mike Clegg News Snippet

Famous footballer helps kick start campaign

Former Manchester United star Mike Clegg recently coached Year 10 pupils from Astley Sports College aMike Clegg coaching year 10 pupils from Astley Sports CollegeMike Clegg coaching year 10 pupils from Astley Sports Collegend Community High School and Hartshead Sports College. Mike, who comes from Ashton, was a pupil at Stamford High School and joined Manchester United as an apprentice at 16 after being discovered by a scout while playing for Droylsden FC.

The day included intensive football coaching and a football tournament. Students were able to develop their individual skills and teamwork. The day was part of 'Kick Start' organised by Tameside Aimhigher. Participants also visited the sports department at Manchester Metropolitan University where they took a look at the facilities, spoke to students and took part in activities.

They also toured the sports facilities at Hyde Clarendon Sixth Form College and found out about the courses on offer that could lead on to further studies at university.

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