I WANT WINNERS! Was the message from the Gaffer as he delivered his team talk at the first session of the day. That told me everything I needed to know about the session ahead, but I’ll come back to that in a minute.
I feel much more at home this year and have hit the ground running. Last year, with it being my first time at the camp, it took me a couple of days to get used to the set-up, whereas this year I know exactly how everything works and what’s what.
As Josh Lillis said in his interview earlier today, there are no distractions. There’s a timetable in place, which splits the day into four, if you like - breakfast followed by training, lunch and downtime, followed by training and eating, then sleep. If you’re not careful, the week would pass you by in a flash so it’s important that I make the most of my time. I learned a hell of a lot last year and I have found it much easier splitting my time between the different aspects of my role this time round.
To give you an insight into my day, I’d describe it as very demanding being a one man band. Whilst the players are training, I film footage, take photos, take written and mental notes for the diary, which is the most time consuming. There will be times when the squad is split across two pitches, so the camera is left running filming one session, while I’ve got the iPad in my hand filming the other. After training, I look to grab a player for an interview before heading back to the hotel. At the hotel, there’s not much down time for me as this is when I start uploading/ editing video content for you lovely lot to read and view. My day usually ends at around 11.pm. Hands up, who thought this was a holiday?
The day typically starts at around 7am for the lads, particularly those who need to see Gaz Thompson or Andy Thorpe (Dale’s physio team) for any treatment. They are available 24-hours a day should the players need to see them, but they’ve designated 7am to 8.15am as the time slot where the players can pop in to see them before training.
Feet issues, and in particular, blisters are very common during pre-season, due to the amount of time spent training and running in the heat etc. This morning when I walked past the physio room there were several players waiting to have their feet looked at, some to have them strapped up for prevention purposes, others were nursing blisters from the first three days back in England.
Harrison is suffering from a foot problem and sat out of today’s sessions to avoid aggravating it further.
And I should point out that Joe Bunney, disappointingly, has been unable to make the trip to Tenerife with us due to a knee injury - he suffered a slight tear to his meniscus in training on Monday. It’ll be a big blow for him, as he was only telling me last week when he popped into the Club Shop that he was looking forward to getting back into training after his summer break. On the plus side, it’s hoped he’ll be ready to train when the squad returns from Tenerife next week.
As well as this year’s current second year scholars being given the opportunity to experience the demands of a pre-season, Harry Pratt, who was a second year scholar last season, has also been given the chance by the Gaffer to spend pre-season with the team. He joined up the with squad on Monday and seems to be settling in well. All the young lads are, to be fair, they appear to be taking it in their stride. You’ll be able to hear what the Gaffer had to say about Harry in his latest interview, which will be on Dale PlayerHD on Saturday morning.
After breakfast, then came the reminder of THAT hill. The T3 training centre is around a 10/15 minute walk away up a steep and winding hill from the hotel. I arrived early-ish and the players soon started arriving in groups for the 8.45am start. I took a glimpse at the time as Keith began delivering his session and he was bang on time – no messing around.
As I said earlier, when you hear the words ‘I want winners’, then you know the players are in for a tough morning.
It was a very demanding and hard-working session, with the lads training for around two hours. After plenty of running with the ball at their feet, it was time for an 11v11 game, which was split into three 15 minute slots with a rotation of subs.
Both teams came flying out of the blocks from the first whistle and I could see they had taken the Gaffer’s earlier message on board. Play was fast and at a very high tempo. It was also very competitive, so much so that Colin, who had been called up to be the man in the middle, awarded a penalty within the first five minutes - Donal McDermott netted from the spot to give his team the lead. Three more goals followed, with
Jack Stewart, Nathianel Mendez-Laing and Joe Rafferty getting their names on the scoresheet in the win.
The afternoon session was a hot and sweaty affair, with the sun still high in the sky at 4.45pm when the session got underway. The first part saw the players split into groups to complete, what’s probably best described as, a footballing circuit. It was focusing on the defenders defending and the attackers attacking. They then moved onto to their second 11v11 game of the day, with Colin the man in the middle once again. He was obviously taking his role very seriously because he had gone to the effort of making himself a makeshift yellow card for the afternoon session.
Everything the management do in training is for a purpose, and today’s sessions were about reacquainting the players with what they expect. After two days of endurance work before we came out to Tenerife, they got down to the footballing aspects today, with the main focus being on what the players do when they’ve got the ball and what they do when they don’t have the ball.
After tea, a few of the lads congregated in the main communal lounge to watch the Wales v Belgium game, while I took the chance to get the Gaffer’s thoughts on day one. I missed both first half goals so opted to stay for the first 15 minutes or so of the second half. When the second goal went in there was a bit of a fist pump moment. At that point I retreated to my room to make a start on transcribing Keith’s interview and to finish off this diary account.
Don’t forget, I’m looking for your questions to put to Big Jim McNulty. The questions are for a new fan driven feature which will appear in TVOS. Your questions for Jim will feature in the Peterborough programme. If you want to send in a question, you can contact me via Twitter or Facebook, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org I’ll need your questions in by Sunday evening. Thanks in advance!
See you all tomorrow.