Dale Chief Executive Colin Garlick is our man in the camp and gives us the lowdown on day five of the pre-season trip to Austria.
Day 5 started a lot earlier than my body wanted to but at least I had had a better night's sleep by getting to bed before midnight. Was in reception for 6.45am along with most of the players and staff, at 6.50 the Gaffer did a head count and two of the players were missing, it was quickly established that it was Reece Gray and George Donnelly who were rooming together and I was about to ring their room when they appeared and the Gaffer took over. The Gaffer has been winding Reece up all week that he is going to make a player and that he is going to go for big bucks and make him a lot of money and he refers to Reece as his "Villa in Spain", there is one other player that he jokes with and he refers to him as his "Caravan in Talacre". As Reece arrives late the Gaffer says to him "Just because you're my "Villa in Spain" doesn't mean you can show up late.
The lads headed off to the training ground with Jimmy and the Gaffer leading the way on their bikes, Jack and Joe followed on behind on their bikes and Andy and I brought up the rear on foot. When Andy and I arrived at the training ground the lads were just arriving from their first run of the day and they had also done a couple of laps of the lake which is at the other end of the village. The lads were instructed to keep moving while the Gaffer and Jimmy set up the exercise room with one of their circuits, this included medicine balls, free weights and dumbbells with mats for other exercises and a table for the prison push ups.
The lads came in to start their exercises and were in their room pairings again and Jimmy took them through the 11 disciplines that they had set up, the circuit today was three laps but the time on each discipline had been increased to 45 seconds per discipline. After the first complete circuit the time on each discipline was brought back down to 30 seconds but the changeover time was just 5 seconds but Jimmy would only start his watch when he had seen the last player start his discipline. This circuit session was done in the exercise room at the training ground just as the sun was getting up and pouring in through the floor to ceiling glass windows which made the room a little bit like a greenhouse.
I know I've spoken before about the banter but every day is different and while you know the lads are working very hard they are driven on by the banter from the Gaffer and Jimmy, the banter that they send back, and the banter that they have amongst themselves. Young Joe Rafferty comes in for quite a bit of stick during the banter but he takes it very well and is a good sport. At one point during this morning's session the Gaffer complimented Sam Minihan on the execution of the exercise that he was doing and then said that Sam does everything perfectly and then turned to Joe and said: "Joe, look at Sam, he's just come out of the Rochdale Academy and you've just come out of the Liverpool Academy, what does that tell you." From there Jimmy picked up on this and started to take the Mickey out of Sam "great squats Sam, absolutely perfect" and then got everyone clapping Sam. A few minutes later "look at how Sam puts his water bottle down, absolutely perfect Sam" and then gets everyone clapping again. A little later "look at how Sam watches his partner, absolutely perfect watch Sam" and leads the clapping again.
One of the exercises involved holding 10kgs out in front of you with your arms as far away from your body as possible, Jimmy described the exercise as though you were holding the steering wheel of your car but one smart a*** said I drive with one hand. This was a tough exercise given it was the first one of what was to be a long and testing day.
We were a little late back from the first session and it was nearly 9 o'clock when we got in to breakfast so the Gaffer put the start of the next session back by a very generous 15 minutes. At breakfast I heard a report that when Joe was pulling up on his bike at the hotel he fell off his bike and in to the bush outside the hotel, George Donnelly and Ian Craney had to help him up but not before they'd finished laughing their heads off at him, the bush will never be the same again.
After breakfast I went up to the treatment room to get a little rub on my calf's off Smoking Joe Hinnigan, this was much to the amusement of Jason Kennedy who was already in there getting some treatment off Andy Thorpe. Jason wondered why I needed my calf's doing given that all I do is type. I had to remind him that I did do a little bit the other night when I refereed the practice match, I also had to remind him a little later to be careful because of the power of the pen (keyboard). Actually Joe said I had good calves and that they would make a cracking steak.
At 10am we had a gentle walk down to the training ground where Jimmy and the Gaffer were setting up their first surprise of the day for the lads. They had an i-pod playing some music to get the lads in the mood for what was about to come. Very soon the lads realised that the i-pod wasn't so much for playing the music but it had the dreaded bleep tests recorded on it. The bleep tests are done over a markers that are 20 meters apart and you basically have to touch each end of the course as the bleep sounds and the levels keep going up as the pace gets quicker and quicker, each level is a minute long but as the tests go up the number of touches increases at each level.
The players were split in to two groups and the first group set off with all the staff placed at each end to check that the players were going the full distance, three strikes and you were out. The Gaffer did warn the players to be careful on this test and revealed that they once had 3 fatalities on this test. You could tell this was a tough test from the work the players were putting in and the pain on their faces and the weather was very hot. They all did very well and out of the first group Reece Gray lasted the longest hitting a level at 14.11, in the second group Joe Rafferty lasted the longest getting to 13.12.
In the second part of the session the players were again split in to two groups and were then split between the Gaffer and Jimmy with of them using a separate set of goals and the goalkeepers. The Gaffer used the mannequins in his session while Jimmy was using poles and cones and both were concentrating on finishing so all this session was used with the ball.
At the end of the session the second surprise of the day was waiting for the players and they have Andy Thorpe to thank for this one. Andy thought it would be a good idea to use the river running alongside the training ground as an ice bath, unfortunately for the lads the Gaffer and Jimmy agreed so before they made their way back to the hotel for lunch it was a quick trip down the river bank and a two minute dip in the icy cold waters of the river. There was a notion before they got in that it might be quite refreshing but given some of the comments coming from the players it was a bit more than refreshing.
Lunch was at 1.15pm and again you start to listen to some crazy stories or get involved in some ridiculous conversations. At first it might start off not too bad, something like what is your favourite goal of all time but then its sinks to a new depth of who is your favourite weather presenter and the obvious suggestion that this refers to a female weather presenter, you can imagine the conversation from there.
At lunch today Jimmy was writing on the board the plans for the rest of the day and notified everyone that due to popular demand there would be another quiz at 8.15pm and this quiz was more directed at the younger element of the group, which in effect was having a go at me, the Chairman, Andy and Joe. He also said that there would be more music, film and sports questions and some of them would be multi choice answers to which some of the players wanted an explanation to what multi choice meant. Jimmy obliged by saying the Oxford/Cambridge boat race starts at which of the following bridges: Tower Bridge, Runcorn Bridge or Putney Bridge to which one of them said, oh that's, easy its Oxford Bridge!
The Gaffer also informed everyone at lunch that he had put in a five figure bid for the mannequin that he had been using in the morning session. The mannequin was looking for a two year deal but the Gaffer was only prepared to offer it a one year deal with a year's option if he played 28 games. Priceless.
On the board Jimmy had written the words and, and, and, and, and to which one of them asked what that meant and Jimmy explained it was a private joke but the Gaffer very quickly asked if anyone could give him a sentence that had the word and in it 5 times consecutively. The Chairman was quick off the mark but none of the players heard him so Jimmy had to write it out for them and gave them this example:
The Crown and Anchor
The space between the Crown and And and And and Anchor is not equal.
Neill Byrne wasn't having any of this and wanted to contest it, the Gaffer on the other hand wasn't having it that Neill wasn't having it and I thought this was a good time to go and catch up on the diary and hopefully a little rest and relaxation. As I went up to my room a few of the players were congregated around a lap top watching the open championship.
I had a dilemma again when I got to my room do I try and grab 40 winks first or do I start typing the diary. It won't surprise you to learn that the 40 winks won. That was initially because once I lay down my conscience started to kick in and I thought I would feel a whole lot better trying to nod off if I had done the diary up to lunch time and to my surprise I got up and started to type. I was right I didn't half feel a lot better about the r & r once I had the diary up to date.
At 4.40pm I made my way down to reception ahead of the late afternoon training session and it was finally time for the big race between Andy and Jack. I headed off to the training ground and the halfway point of the race and the leg 1 finishing line, once I was there I rang jack to tell him I was there so they could set off. My job was to time the difference between the two of them at the training ground and it was thought that Jack would have the advantage at this point as half of this journey was downhill. Andy was hoping to keep Jack's advantage for the second part of the race down to under a minute and as close to 45 seconds as he could get. The advantage turned out to de 54.37 seconds which was a miracle for Jack because when he crossed the check point line his coat was just about to get stuck in his back wheel and throw him off.
The first part of the training session was again very interesting, set up on the near side of the pitch and almost the length of one half and about 15 yards wide there had been 3 zones set out. The players were put in to 3 groups of 7 and the first part of the exercise was that they had 2/3 touch football between their own group with players moving in and out of their own zone. The second part of the exercise mixed it up quite a bit as some of the players went in to different zones to create a 2 v 5 situation in 3 parts of the pitch and the object of the exercise was to move the ball on the ground from one end of the field to the other, this called for quick sharp passing and movement with close control.
The second part of the session was played on the full size pitch and involved all players and the goalkeepers. The Gaffer had deliberately set up the team differently from before but in a formation and with the appropriate personnel to concentrate on the front two receiving the ball and then being supported by the midfielders. Having enjoyed some very warm weather the heavens opened during this exercise and it was eventually cut a little short when the lightening started to appear on top of the hill overlooking the ground. The Gaffer made the most of this enforced break and took the players inside the club house and started to talk about the sessions and their overall objectives. The Gaffer ended the session with some good news and the instruction that they could pay him later but he was not going to ask the players to turn out for early morning exercise and to report to reception for 10.30pm but to make sure they had all eaten breakfast at least an hour before training. The late day training session would start an hour early at 4pm to match the kick off time of the match scheduled for the following day.
The second part of the great race between Jack and Andy was due to take place on the return journey to the hotel but this was postponed to another day at Andy's request as he was feeling his hamstring a little so it was back to the hotel, a shower and then dinner at 7.30pm.
After dinner it was eyes down for the quiz at 8.15pm. I got a bit of a rollicking off the Gaffer as I said I wasn't going to take part in the quiz because Jimmy had designed it to make sure me and the chairman didn't win and the questions were more suited to the younger age group. Well that's unfair because Jimmy has spent his rest and relaxation time putting the quiz together for your benefit, blah blah blah, gee Gaff I was only Joking, and so was he.
After round one of the quiz we were behind the treatment team of Andy and Smoking Joe and tied with a couple of player pairing George and Reece but we came good in the second round and ran out comfortable winners to the ring imitation announcement by the Gaffer "AND STILL THE UNDEFEATED CHAMPIONS", not the most popular win.
So after another eventful day it was back to the room to complete the diary, check the emails and ring Mrs G before a little bit of book reading and a good nights sleep with a lie in at the end of it.