Day two started in much of the same way as the first and I was woken at 6am by my alarm. It seemed like only two minutes since my head had the pillow, but after a scroll through Twitter and Facebook, I was up and raring to go and to see what the day would bring.
Well I say day, rather oddly at that time it’s still pitch dark outside, which scuppered any chance of quick five minute sit on the balcony before jumping in the shower.
Colin had done great job of showing me what’s what on day one, so I decided to head down to breakfast a bit earlier. My nose often gets the better of me (which is probably just as well for this job) so I headed down at 7.30 to see who was around and what the chat was.
Most of the staff had already been and gone and it was only the Gaffer, Beechy and Jack the Kitman who were left. After a quick good morning exchange the Management team set off up to training. Players filtered in and out from then onwards as they started to surface ahead of their third training session of the trip.
After yesterday’s mistake of choosing the cornflakes for breakfast, temptation got the better of me and I opted for a croissant, scrambled eggs and a streak of bacon. I had every intention of jogging a 5k while at the T3 to work it off, as well as doing my bit to keep my fitness up ahead of the Rochdale Half Marathon and 10k event, but I didn’t get round to it. Sorry Frances!
I waited for Colin, the Chairman and Andrew Kelly and got a lift up the hill, although I probably would have been quicker walking by the time Colin managed to get the car to set off – he’s still having problems releasing the hand-brake, bless him.
Having learned our lesson from yesterday we saved ourselves from the wrath of the Gaffer as we arrived on time. The view to the pitches from the reception area of the T3 complex is quite something and the pitch geek in me (Rob and Drew the Groundsmen would be proud) couldn’t help admire the surface, which was largely complimented by the sea views behind it.
The Gaffer had already prepared his plans for this session and these were on the flip chart. The board detailed the groups of players and emphasised the purpose of the sessions. After yesterday’s Hill-ism about the lion at Chester Zoo, it wasn’t surprising that he had another up his sleeve. He announced that part of the session would be fartlech based (we’ll let you google that) and proceeded to tell the players that he wanted it symmetrical like their Mrs dressing a Christmas tree. It had me in stitches, but at the least the players knew what he wanted to see while they were on the pitch.
Kevin Gibbins put the players through a warm-up before the session started - you can watch it HERE on our Dale Player.
After Kevin had done the warm up session the Gaffer and Beechy took over. As well as the fartlech, there was also a 2v1 session, which is about the players being comfortable on the ball while under pressure. We took the opportunity to film what was going on and you can view it HERE on our YouTube channel.
The morning session finished with Kevin giving the lads some warm down exercises, before we headed back to the hotel for a shower before lunch at 1pm.
The lads had been told to report for a 4.45pm start, giving me a chance to load content from the morning onto our various channels after lunch.
Jack the Kitman was looking for a buddy to stroll up the hill with and so I gave up my seat in the car and embarked on the walk up the hill for session two of the day.
At the T3 we went through the gate at the players' entrance and I had one thing to remember – do not walk on the pitch! I swear that the Gaffer must have eyes in the back of his head, because even when he’s not looking at you he knows exactly what you’re doing, so me and Jack walked round the track and over to what you would call, I suppose, our work station.
Set under two gazebos, the physios have their beds there, a tub full of ice cold water that’s got numerous bottles of water in, as well a whole load of other equpiment, including the flip chart, the players' spare boots, bags etc.
The second session of the day saw the players split into four groups of seven. With 27 players in the squad, Tony Ellis joined in to even out the numbers. The session consisted of several 2minute 7v7 games on a full sized pitch. It was a highly energetic session and the lads looked in great form - the passing was absolutely sublime. I had spent much of the other sessions either filming, taking pictures or sat on the top floor looking to make use of the wifi, but I found myself completely glued to this one.
I even acted as ball girl at times during the session, helping the Chairman, Andrew Kelly, Andy Thorpe, Colin and KH’s Dad, who were stationed around the pitch. You may know Keith Snr from previous years and by god does he work hard – he’s one of the first at the training ground helping to set up and is out on the pitch for the full session chasing after and collecting balls.
The Gaffer was in a great mood at the end of the session and it was easy to see just how happy he was with the attitude and application of the players and he was quick to praise them after it was finished. Click HERE to read what he had to say.
The players had given their absolute all, and although they were all absolutely knackered, they're never ones to shy away from a chat and most of the time you’ll get some good conversation out of them.
At tea I was sat a table with Peter V, Calvin, Rhys Benno and Joe Raff, and what a laugh. During a conversation about what we all got up to on our close season break, Pete mentioned he had been in New York visiting his sister, which got us on to talking about the American states. Quite amusingly Joe Raff piped up that he could name them all, something Pete was all over. Three states in and Raff was struggling but somehow managed to name 22 of them. How? Colin had googled the states and slid his phone over to Joe while Pete V wasn’t looking and Joe played a blinder as he rolled off state after state while doing a great job at not making it obvious what he was doing - it had me and Colin in stitches.
Around 9.15pm I thought it was about time I interviewed the Gaffer before he disappeared back to his room for the night. With the interview in the bag, it was back to the laptop to finish off the day one review, write up a bit of what the Gaffer had to say and fight with the wifi to get his interview on Dale Player. That was successful, unlike the Jim McNulty interview that I’m still trying to get online. I haven’t forgotten about it - for some reason it won’t load past 26 %! I haven’t given up hope just yet though and I’ll try again throughout the week.
00.39 was on the clock that last time I looked it so thought I better catch some sleep.