Welcome to the final instalment of this year’s training camp diary. We head off back to the UK on Thursday afternoon so this will be my final report. I am looking forward to a very busy day and one which I think will be very tiring and exhausting for the players as they have it down on their schedule as their “Run in the Sun” day. I am sure that whatever the Gaffer and the staff have planned for the players today will be blister burning.
I had my solid 5 hours sleep and mixed this with some early morning reading. I was up showered and on my way to breakfast at 7.30 and ran in to the cleanly shaven Gaffer on the way down. When we reached reception we ran in to BBM and the Gaffer asked him what the players thoughts were on the day ahead, BBM just summed it up nicely with the word “apprehensive”.
Being a little earlier for breakfast the dining room was a little more populated than normal. I had to take Reece of my questionnaire wanted list as he had slid his under my door last night while I was typing and Scott Hogan was soon to redeem himself also. There are still a few on my list and they will be hunted down during the course of the day. Beechy had suggested that I don’t return their passports until they’ve returned their questionnaires but I think a few of them would be happy to be stranded out here.
After breakfast I put my factor 50 on and got my Onesie out for the last time over here. I headed off to the treatment room where I always seem to run in to Hogie who is having a rub and some stretches, people are going to start talking about those two. Thorpey was strapping Tutty up and sorting out his blisters.
I wanted to take the Fizz and Gaz up to the training ground as we were due to have our team photograph taken for the T3 Top Training Centre wall of fame. There are signed shirts and photographs from teams and sports people from all over the world including Swansea City, Bayer Leverkusen, Ian Thorpe, Wigan Athletic, Warrington Wolves and a lot of National Swimming Federations including the Japanese and Mexican Federations, and now of course Rochdale AFC will proudly sit amongst them.
While we have been here we have been very well looked after by a German guy called Holgar to be added to the list) who is on a secondment to the centre and he has always been on hand to help set up the training ground and he has supplied us with clean towels every day, water and ice and just about everything that we have needed. Holgar was tasked with getting our photograph, a signed shirt and our Team name and messages in the guest book. Just before the session started with everyone present Holgar gave us all a T3 Top Training Centre t-shirt for us all to wear on one of the photographs, he then took one with us all in our Rochdale AFC training kit.
With the formalities of our visit sorted out the Gaffer went about explain what the session was going to be about. He had titled it the Run in the Sun day, now run rhymes with sun and fun rhymes with sun but what the Gaffer described was no fun run I can tell you. This session was in 5 parts and I have to say that none of them sounded particularly attractive, especially the one in the middle, which I will come to shortly.
First off we need to get those limbs loosened up and Ross took the players for a ten minute warm up routine through one of his specially designed courses, Ross then finished off with those bands that are resistance bands placed just above the knees and they do exactly what it says on the tin and they resist your movement.
While Ross was doing the warm ups I had half an eye on what he was doing while multi-tasking and taking advantage of the wifi connection on the field to email the diary back to Leighanne as well as respond to a few business emails.
Part two was in the Gaffers hands and I could tell from the off, as I’m sure the players could, that the Gaffer was really in the mood for a good old session. Operating in one half of the pitch the Gaffer had the players with a ball at their feet and he had them dribbling the ball all around this half of the pitch and he would vary the pace at which the players were to run with the ball. The pace varied from a gentle jog with the ball close at the player’s feet and then he would open it up by telling the players to dribble with the ball further away from them at three quarter pace and then he would really open it up to a sprint and this part of the session lasted for 20 minutes. During this session the Gaffer is constantly shouting out instructions and encouragement and a little bit of advice in to the bargain. One little piece of advice was his life experience of playing hide and seek with his little boy Sydney, the Gaffer says Sydney being young loves playing the game but keeps hiding in the same place and its easy for the Gaffer to find him, this was a warning that there was no hiding place from him and he was watching everyone. The Gaffer also warned about looking after the ball and to take good care of it, give it a name and talk to it, he would then ask different players what they had named their ball, Rosey named his Beechy, not sure about that one you will have to work it out for yourselves. This was a really tough 20 minutes, which doesn’t sound like a long time but when you’ve got the Gaffer taking you up through the gears, believe me it really is tough.
The third part of the day was on paper what looked to be the most gruelling part of the session and so it proved. I will try and explain it to you but just in case I took a photo of the instructions that the Gaffer had put up on the white board to get it across to the players, Leighanne will need to put this up to hopefully help you understand my poor attempt at an explanation.
First of all we have half a pitch with two full size goals and two goalkeepers. The next bit is about the teams who are split in to two teams of nine but there is a third team of players who are four in number and these were the midfielders of Cav, Tutty, Lundy and BBM who were to be the neutral team in red bibs playing with the team in possession. Now it gets complicated because within the two teams of nine these were then broken down in to teams of three and paired with a team of three from the other competing nine.
So the game kicks off and it is 9 v 9 but with the 4 neutral players working with the team in possession, which doesn’t seem fair as it is in effect 9 v 13 excluding the goalkeepers but this is where it gets even more interesting. At any given time Ross is instructed to call out either team 1, 2 or 3 to go off to the side of the pitch where he has a sprint course set out, so if he calls out team 2 you get 3 players from each of the competing teams leaving the pitch to go and do a series of sprints in relays of 3. This leaves the game taking place and with the four neutral players still involved helping the team in possession it is 10 v 6, which in terms of being in the team of 6 means some very hard work. The 3 neutral players don’t escape the sprint relays either because Ross will call them off at different point meaning the game is 9 v 9. The sprint relays are designed to ensure that each of the teams and the players are sprinting 1500m during the game. The game itself is at a fast pace and there is no relaxation in the play because there is a multi-ball system in play, which is constantly fed by Keith Senior and the Chairman and with 30 balls on site the pace is kept up because you also have to run on and off the pitch when called by Ross. The game lasts for 30 minutes and quite frankly combined with the sprints the pace of the session is absolutely brutal, my view is that this is against the Geneva Convention and if it isn’t it should be.
I think I read in a lot of the players faces that they had been through the pain barrier and twice round the block and beyond and there were still parts 4 and 5 to come. Part 4 was a special circuit set up on the 4G pitch by Ross and Dan. The players were put in to pairs and there were 14 different sets of equipment set up to test every part of the body and the circuit was timed by Ross, in parts there was some active recovery but not very much. I went round the various exercises taking individual pictures of the players for the Gaffers collage, but it was impossible to get them to smile for the camera.
The most eagerly awaited part was part 5 and the final one of the session. This was the final warm down and stretch routines that Ross took the players through. I mentioned earlier about there being no hiding place from the Gaffer and there isn’t because as well as him and the rest of the staff we have the Polar belts that take the readings from the belts strapped around the players chests and these reading are fed live to the computer that Dan and Ross will monitor at regular intervals.
This was the session from hell and it was noticeable on the players' faces and in their tired body language, all of the lads had done well and it was difficult for me to pick out anyone for a BPB from this intense and pacey session. I did notice that Reece had scored quite a few goals and I was again impressed with the total professionalism shown by BBM, but the faces and the Polar belts will tell you that the effort and professionalism put in by all the players leaves me giving them all a BPB.
The routine of the day continued as I helped to pack the equipment away after our 3 hour plus session. It was then back to my room to don the swimming shorts ready for my pre-lunch dip in the pool. I’ve been a little disappointed this year with the swim suit fashions as we have mainly had some very conservative swimming shorts and nothing that would force an entry in to the most ridiculous swimming shorts competition.
After lunch the Gaffer called a team meeting and thanked the players for their hard work, not only in the morning session but throughout the week. He then basically told them all that they had won the Euro Lottery and that there would be no evening session as he was more than happy with everything that the players had done and felt that this stage of pre-season was complete for him. The Gaffer then went on to talk to a very relieved and grateful squad about the next phase of pre-season, and in particular the competition of the friendly games that we have arranged, and that he expects the same attitude, application and professionalism that the players had already shown him so far .
I can’t say that I was too disappointed with this news as it would give me the opportunity to bring the diary up to date, catch up on some emails and possibly enjoy a little siesta. I had also promised Beechy that I would take him to town to do some shopping for his little boy and his daughter who wanted some Spanish shoes to go with her Spanish dress.
While I was turbo typing the diary for a couple of hours in the afternoon I again experienced some difficulty with the canopy on my balcony. It had been fine over the weekend but again the last couple of days it had started to get temperamental again and just go off and do its own thing. It was particularly annoying this afternoon because once it had contracted on its own it wouldn’t go back with the remote. I took the batteries out and gave the contacts a clean but it still wasn’t having it and then all of a sudden it would respond but no sooner was it out than it was on its way back in again. At one point I thought the breeze had got it rattled and it decided to retract all on its own and then it just wouldn’t come out to play. At one point I put the remote under my pillow so it couldn’t connect but that didn’t work either. I got the feeling that the more I got annoyed with it the more it went in and out and I’m sure it was having a good laugh at my expense. It is behaving itself at the moment but then it doesn’t really matter as it’s 9.30pm and the sun has gone away for the day.
There are times when I am on this trip that I shut myself away to do the diary and but for going out I could become a recluse. Having spent a few hours typing I thought I would give Beechy a call and take him off in to town. As we left our rooms on the third floor you can normally look down and see a collection of players making the most of R & R time by lounging about around the pool, as we looked down today all we could see were empty sun loungers where the players ought to be, but our guess was that they were all unconscious on their beds recovering from that brutal morning session.
On our way out of reception we bumped in to the Chairman who had just been out for his afternoon stroll along the seafront, we told him where we were going and we had got some directions from reception but the Chairman felt he knew where we wanted to go and offered to come with us. We did end up at a very modern shopping centre on the way to Los Americos but we couldn’t find what Beechy was looking for and decided to try elsewhere. We came across another little centre and Beechy went inside to have a look around while the Chairman and I stayed in the car. I then clocked a little sign and thought of getting Mrs G a little present so I went inside and made my purchase. When I got back to the car Beechy was back but hadn’t found what he was looking for.
I’m getting a little bit miffed with Beechy about now and he is tumbling down my Christmas card list at a fair old rate of knots, don’t forget it was Beechy that saved Jack from drowning and I know I will regret him doing that, now his little shopping trip has just cost me a pretty penny on a gift for Mrs G. The only saving grace for Beechy at the moment is that I have erased the guilt that I’ve been feeling for not getting those two lots of three little words out first, “I love you” and “I miss you” on the phone and up on the defensive with having to add the TOO bit at the end of my words.
Our search continues and the directions we are getting are in fact not getting us to where we want to be. Beechy is convinced that everyone we are asking for directions are Bury fans sending us on a wild goose chase. Finally we get to where we want to be and Beechy and the Chairman nip off to the shopping centre we have been looking for and I stay with the car. Thankfully after about 20 minutes they both return and I am relieved to see some bags in Beechy’s hands and a smile on his face, it was relief on the Chairman’s face.
We got back shortly before 6.30pm and dinner was at 7.30pm, obviously the siesta hours had passed but that didn’t stop me from having 20 minutes before going to dinner. As I walking to the dining room I got a text of Jack asking where I was as everyone was down eating. I had obviously been given some duff information and dinner was at 7pm. As I got in to the dining room I noticed Scott Tanser stood on a chair with a bottle in his hand singing a Bruno Mars number to the lads and the rest of the dining room. Fair play to Scott he had the bottle that no one else had to get up and do a number. During dinner Jack had befriended a Dutch family and the young boys had asked if they could have their photo taken with the players who duly obliged and made the young boys day.
I again used the dining room as a means for trying to retrieve a few more questionnaires. I also got Jack to get my Dale polo shirt signed for Guntar to put on the wall at T3 and while I was at it I got the remaining lads to sign and comment in the T3 guest book. By the time I had done this it was approaching 9pm and I retired to my room to complete the final part of this year’s diary as well as ring Mrs G and see if I could get those immortal words in first.
This has without doubt been a very enjoyable trip, which is easy for me to say as I haven’t been doing all the hard work, the players have and they have responded fantastically to everything that the Gaffer and his coaches and backroom staff have thrown at them and they’ve been thoroughly professional throughout. In recognising the very hard work put in by the players it would be very remiss of me not to thank all the staff for their hard work also, Keith heads a team of people that are all there to try and make the players the best that they can be, so to Keith, Chris, Tony, Jack, Andy, Gary, Ross, Dan, Steve and Brian very well done I am sure the players will appreciate everything that you have, and will do for them as the season progresses. For the Chairman, AK, Keith Senior and me it has been a privilege to do our own little bit and we all know how lucky we are to be so close to the players and staff.
UP THE DALE