It was an early start for the players on Thursday morning, with a 6.45am meet at Manchester Airport.
Chris Beech was in charge of making sure everything went smoothly on arrival this year, as myself and Colin (Garlick, Dale Chief Exec) were booked onto a later flight.
With the flight not until the evening, I had popped into office, or the dungeon as I like to call it. For those of you that haven’t been downstairs in the Club Shop at Spotland, the temperature is always way above comfortable and there are no windows connecting us to the outside world – thank goodness for Twitter and the occasional internal phone calls letting us know that we haven’t been forgotten about.
Whilst there, I was tasked with picking up an important package for Dan Fradley, who claimed that it “would make life much easier for him while he was out here”. What was inside? A couple of portable hard-drives.
Anyway, with the package safely picked up and my goodbyes given to the office staff, off I went to the airport where I met Colin, albeit 5 minutes late after taking the wrong turn at a mini-roundabout and ending up at Terminal 3 instead of 1 – I blame the driver, which wasn’t me, by the way!
Upon check in, we were informed that we had received speedy boarding – result! Making our way to the gate, we by-passed the lengthy queue, where we were sent down an outside lane and straight to the front of a waiting area, where we ended up first on board.
Colin used the flight as an opportunity to catch up on paper work for the season ahead after being away on holiday for the last two weeks – he’s often referred to Judith Chalmers in the office. I, on the other hand, listened to music and read a book – nothing too taxing at all.
After a half hour delay at Manchester Airport, followed by what seemed like an excruciatingly long wait at the car hire booth one we had landed in Tenerife, and an even longer trek to find our rented car somewhere in amongst what resembled Fords of Windsford, we finally made it to our Volkswagen Golf, which Colin has hired for the week. It comes in handy for shifting equipment back and forward to training.
11.30pm was on clock by the time we had figured out how to set off from the parking bay, I mean what type of car has no noticeable hand-brake! So as we set off out into the dark, it was case of trying to follow signs and the odd noticeable landmark as Colin attempted to remember the route he had taken the two previous years. A few nervy near-misses at taking the wrong exit, and a few comments about me looking very nervous, we finally arrived at the hotel shortly before midnight.
There wasn’t much we could do at that time, so after checking in, I retired to my room, where I got my head down and got some much needed sleep.
Day 1 (proper) as I like to call it, saw my alarm sound at 6am. A press (or two) of the snooze button later and I finally got out of bed with a spring in my step at 6.15am.
With it being my first time on the pre-season trip, Colin kindly offered show me the ropes and what’s what. He met me in the reception area to show me around the dining area and the large breakfast spread that’s on offer.
Keen not to stuff my face on the first day, I opted for the cornflakes, despite eying up the bacon, sausage and the thick crusty bread. No surprisingly, by lunch time I was starving.
That was 8am and the Gaffer and the Management staff were already on their way to the training ground, following by the players at regular intervals, who took the ten minute walk up the hill to the T3.
Myself, Colin and Andrew Kelly arrived at the training ground 15 minutes later than everyone else, giving the Gaffer the opportunity to have a bit of dig - note to self, lesson learned – be on time. Another thing, all phones are banned, as we quickly found out. It’s a good job I brought my iPad!
After being given their instructions, the players were put through a 20 minute warm-up, before completing an hour and a half session.
As mentioned in yesterday’s Dale Player interview with Dan Fradley, everything the Gaffer does is with purpose in preparation for the season ahead and he likes the player to have the ball at their feet.
As well as the routine, which I uploaded onto Player yesterday, the players were also split into groups creating a 3v3 scenario inside a penalty box sized area. Rather than me trying to describe what was going on, you can see for yourselves on YouTube by clicking HERE.
As you would probably imagine, the Gaffer is very vocal on the training pitch as he looks to get his message across. And the Gaffer wouldn’t be the Gaffer if he didn’t come out with one of his Hillisms. The ‘If you’re a lion at Chester Zoo, would you want to be a zebra?’ quote, drew a few funny looks. Session one finished shortly after 11am and the players headed back down the hill to the hotel, in time for meeting for lunch at 1pm.
After lunch, the players have a bit of down time. Some of them paid a visit to physio’s Andy Thorpe and Gaz Thompson for a rub down or to get blisters attended to. The rest headed back to their rooms. This gave me a chance to start uploading the content that I had filmed at the first session.
There was a strict 4.45pm start for session two and there was impeccable timing from all the lads as the Gaffer started delivering his instructions bang on time. The second session was to be the same as the first, but he was looking for improvement on the morning session.
After a cool down in the pool, the players arrived back at the hotel with around half an hour to spare before tea, so it was a quick turn-around before meeting at 8pm.
Once food was finished, the players began heading back to their rooms and I took the opportunity to grab an interview with Jim McNulty and Dan Fradley before they disappeared for the night.
It was going on 9.30pm at this point and I was hoping the wifi would be kind to me, but sadly not. Three hours later I finally got the last video online and off I went to sleep.