A year already, eh? Where does time go!
It only feels like yesterday since I left Tenerife filled with huge sense of optimism about the season ahead. The 2015-16 campaign, of course, delivered yet another memorable and successful season, with the players going down in the record books after securing Dale's best ever League 1 points total.
Was I surprised? Definitely not. Last year's training camp gave me a great insight into the mentality of the management and the players, and, as you may remember, I ended last year's diaries by praising the players for their hard-work, endeavour and commitment. I fully expected those traits to be evident during the season and I think it's fair to say we saw them in abundance.
After an enjoyable summer (I like to make the most of the close season as I don't get too many days off during the season!), it's good to be back into the swing of things. It's absolute pleasure to have been invited on the trip for a second year, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what's in store this year. The squad will again be training at the state of the art T3 complex in La Caletta.
Last year, Colin (Garlick, Dale Chief Exec] and myself flew out on a different flight to the squad, arriving in camp around 8 hours after the players, but this year due to the number of pre-booked seats, we were able to fly out with the squad.
With the alarm set for 4.30am, I'm pretty sure I saw every hour on the clock. You know that way where you're terrified of sleeping in? Yeah, that.
After faffing around for an hour and a half, I left the house at 6am for a 7am meet at Leeds Bradford International Airport. It's the first time I had flown from there and hadn't realised that is well off the beaten track and a good half hour away from the motorway. I don't think Mr B, as I'll call him, was too impressed at being dragged out of bed super early to drop me off. I've promised I'll bring him a present home.
When I arrived at the airport Colin was already there, giving instructions to the first group of players who had arrived with plenty of time to spare - Lundy, Jim and Peter V. There was a really relaxed mood as the players continued to arrive in dribs and drabs, and there was plenty of, erm, conversations about their new track suits, which they were wearing for the first time. Let's just say, think of the Smurfs and you'll be pretty close.
We were again flying with Jet2
, who are absolutely fantastic at accommodating us. Check in was moving along swiftly under the watchful eye of Colin and Jack the Kitman, so I made my way up to the check-in desk alongside Peter V. Those of you on Twitter will know that Pete got married this summer. I used the brief waiting time as a chance to ask him about his wedding.
Yesterday, the players and staff, including myself, received our itinerary for the trip. Right at the top of the print out in big, bold letters, it was made clear that 15kg was the maximum weight allowed per person. With 22kg available on Jet2
, the surplus allowance is used towards the equipment that we need to take out to Tenerife for the training sessions.
Now, I've never been one for travelling light and yip, you guessed it, my case was well over, weighing in at 19.1kg. Luckily, everyone apart from Jim, who had brought a suitcase big enough for a family of four's clothing for a fortnight, were well under their allowance so I was able to check it in, no questions asked. It's a good job really as my hand luggage was already full to bursting with my media equipment.
Game of Thrones. Let me guess, you've watched it? Well I'm in the 'I promise I'll get round to starting the series soon' camp. It really is amazing the look of horror on people's faces when you say you haven't watched it.
Anyway, the majority of the players/ staff listened to music, watched a film (or the Game of Thrones, no doubt after our earlier discussions), or slept during the flight. I opted to listen to music and hoped I wouldn't fall asleep. I've got a habit of catching flies and it isn't a pretty sight!
Luckily for me, I had an aisle seat and Jack was sat across the aisle from me. He doesn't half make me laugh. I'm sure he had everything but the kitchen sink in his hand luggage bag. He also had an assortment of every sweet you could think of... he was only too happy share them around and I bagged myself a packet of fruit mentos.
Speaking of Jack, Colin has been left wondering whether or not his hearing aid is on the blink. Colin being Colin was on the hunt for something to read so asked Jack if he had any books with him. 'I'll be alright wearing my trainers' was the reply...
With Jack 'I can feed the five thousand' Northover to the right of me, I had a player, who shall remain nameless, to the left of me who really doesn't enjoy flying. At one point during take-off we thought we might need a sick bag for him. Saying that though, we probably didn't help the situation by discussing our memories of past turbulence incidents. The deathly stare that was unleashed made that very clear.
A couple of hours into the flight I thought I'd make a start on the diary. It saved me from entering 'are we nearly there' yet mode.
And at this point I think it would be a good idea to do a bit of housekeeping. 27 players have travelled with us this year, including three second year scholars - Matthew Gillam (forward), Andy Hollins (defender) and Jack Stewart (forward). We only found out on Monday that Tradesman trialist winner River Humphreys had chosen Rochdale for his one month trial so he won't be joining up with the squad until after the Tenerife trip. I'm really looking forward to meeting him and asking him why he chose Dale!
There's no Chairman, Andrew Kelly or the Gaffer's Dad this year.
Keith Sr, in particular, was a bit of an unsung hero last year and I probably didn't give him as much of a mention as I should have. Keith Snr was one of the first at training every morning to help set up, and would spend the session rounding up stray balls or moving equipment around the training ground. He was at everyone's beck and call and was a massive help. There's no doubt he'll be missed on the trip, but we've got an ideal replacement in Bailey, the Gaffer's nephew.
Staff member wise, joining us on the trip for the first time this year is Callum Jones, Dale's Head of Analysis. He took over from Dan Fradley in August last year, so just missed out on last year's pre-season trip.
In addition to Matty, Andy and Jack, Niall (Canavan), Harrison (McGahey), Ollie (Rathbone) and Nathaniel (Mendez-Laing) are also all debutants. The other players know the place like the back of their hand so I'm sure they'll point them in the right direction.
Rooming wise, there's a bit of mix, but the management seem to have paired the majority in line with their positions. Josh and Johny are sharing a room, while Hendo and Calvin are roommates for the week, as are Callum and Jamie etc.
We arrived in Tenerife on time at 2.10pm, and after collecting the baggage, we jumped straight on the awaiting coach to take us to the hotel, which was only 15 minutes away. The room keys were handed out by 3.30pm and after a quick baggage drop the Gaffer rounded the players up for a group meeting. He used the time to lay down a few house rules and set his stall out for the week ahead. It was brief, as I’m sure most of the talking had been done during the first three days of pre-season.
After an early start this morning, there was no training today. After the meeting, the players were given the opportunity to get a bit of down time before tea at 7pm. There were a lot of tired bodies in the dining room, and after the food was scoffed, some opted to relax in the communal lounge to watch Portugal take on Poland, while others retreated to their rooms. With a 6am alarm beckoning in the morning, I was one of those who opted to head back to my room.
The hard-work starts tomorrow, with a double session planned for the lads. I’ll bring you coverage of the day across the club’s official channels.