Leighanne Ball, the club's media officer, brings you the lowdown of day one in Tenerife...
It’s an absolute pleasure to have been invited on the pre-season trip to Tenerife for a third year. After finding my feet in year one and hitting the ground running last year, I should be a pro at this content malarky now, shouldn't I?! No pressure there then.
The trip to Tenerife is always highly anticipated, with the planning behind-the-scenes starting as early as December/ January. It’s a hugely important part of the preparations for the new season, with the Gaffer and his management team using the time to set out their stall for the campaign ahead and also to reiterate the key values, ethos and work ethic that he not only expects but demands. It’s also a working week, away from any real life distractions.
There’s often a misconception amongst supporters, and even friends and family, that the week away resembles a holiday. I must tell you, it’s as far removed from a holiday as you’ll get. Train, eat, sleep, repeat is how the seven days look.
We’re again training at the impressive T3 facility in La Caleta and arrived at the hotel yesterday (Thursday) evening shortly after 8pm.
Food followed immediately after check-in, before the staff went up to the training ground to drop the equipment off so everything was in place for this morning’s session.
Derby County are out here at the moment, too, having arrived on Sunday, but it’s unlikely that our paths will cross too often, with each team allocated their own pitch at the facility.
Chief Exec Russ Green joins us on the trip for the first time, as does Director Paul Hazlehurst, who has been nicked named Pep after the famous Mr Guardiola. I believe it has something to do with the very snazzy sun glasses he wore to training today. Both Russ and Paul have been warned they’ll be earning their keep this week – I hope they’ve brought a sensible pair of trainers because they’ll be spending a lot of time on their feet, chasing and collecting balls. It should, due his marathon walk with Jeff Stelling, be a breeze for Russ, though.
The Chairman couldn’t attend last year due to work commitments, but is back with us this time round. He looked proud as punch as he arrived at the airport wearing his new Rochdale AFC club suit. He ran the line the last time he came on pre-season, so he’s already anticipating that he might get called into action to officiate at some point during the week. I can’t imagine there will be many Chairman at football clubs up and down the country who will willingly get stuck in.
Bailey Brigg, the Gaffer’s nephew, who you may remember from last year’s diaries, is with us again. I’ve gotten to know young Bailey over the last few years and he’s a grafter, as well as an all-round good egg. There are no passengers on this trip and he works extremely hard out here - from lifting and helping to set up equipment, to chasing after balls, being a linesman and really just anything that’s asked of him.
Player wise, the full squad has flown out with the exception of Joe Thompson. As previously announced, Daniel Adshead, the 15-year-old midfielder, is here with us - what an unbelievable opportunity this is for him! And, I must say, he has taken to it like a duck to water - very impressive for someone so young to keep up with demands of a trip such as this. First year scholar Louis White and second year scholar Keith Kearney have also been afforded the chance to join the first team on this trip.
There’s a fantastic atmosphere in camp, with the new players having settled in very well already. The dynamics of the squad are great - there are no egos, just a bunch of lads who are extremely competitive and hungry, and want to work hard on behalf of the football club. There’s a real buzz around the group, an excitement, almost, and plenty of smiles on faces, at the moment anyway.
Check out my online gallery from day one to see for yourself.
What’s great is that we are all Team Rochdale. From the Chairman, to the Manager to Jack the Kitman and the non-playing staff – there’s no airs and graces. We’re all in it together, as they say, although some have more privileges than others. Well, just me, in fact. For the first time in the three years that I’ve been here, I’ve somehow managed to bag myself some air con in my room. I felt almost guilty reading Jordan Willams’ tweet last night… #SorryNotSorry.
Anyway, day one proper of the trip (Friday) unfolded as expected – eat, train, eat, rest, train, eat, rest.
The day starts before 7am for everyone, with the meet for breakfast at 7am. Training starts at 9am so the staff set off on the 15-minute walk up the hill from the hotel to the complex at around 7.30am to start setting up for session one of the day. I’m careful not to say ‘start preparing’ for the day ahead, as knowing the Gaffer and his backroom staff, these sessions will have been planned weeks in advance. Attention to detail is second to none and everything is done to a very high and professional standard.
I was dreading the thought of THAT hill as I prepared to embark on the power walk to the T3, but it has been Russ to the rescue today as he refuses to let me walk to the training ground with all my equipment on my back. In fact, he refuses to let me carry my own equipment. Who said chivalry was dead. eh! It’s like having a personal chauffeur, being driven in the hire car up to, and from training. I cannot thank him enough!
The intensity of the first session was very hard, not that I expected anything different.
After one lap around the running track, Kev Gibbins took the warm-up, before the ball was introduced. Nearly all of what the players do out here, well, in fact, on a daily basis back home, is with the ball at their feet.
The squad was split into three groups of eight for small sided games, which were played at a very high tempo. They were also highly competitive. You might be wondering how it works with three teams… well, two teams play against each other, while the remaining side stand on the sidelines and are known as bounce players. They are spare men for the team in possession and can assist them. One bounce player is stood either side of the goals at each end, while two more stand down the side of the touchline, if you like. Josh and Brendan stayed in goal throughout and they pulled off some great saves. Josh getting down on two occasions in quick succession to keep out Ollie Rathbone and Calvin Andrew, and Brendan leaping like a cat across goal to save a ball that was headed towards the top corner of the net, and he even had the cheek to hold it.
The sun was still high in the sky when we arrived for the second session of the day at 5pm. It was a hot one!
It was also a long session, lasting two hours.
Everything the management do in training is for a purpose, and this afternoon’s session focused on possession, and what the players do when they’ve got the ball and what they do when they don’t have the ball.
The Gaffer had been relatively quiet by his standards at the morning session but had found his voice for the second session of the day, and he got the information over to the players very clearly. Talking the whole way through the session, he let them know exactly what he wanted from them.
The main part of the session was an 11v11 scenario, which was again played at a high tempo and very competitively. There were some impressive performances – it’s clear to see that the players have looked after themselves during the close season and have returned in very good shape.
All in all, a hard but positive day at the T3 for the players.
After tea, I retreated back to my room to upload and transcribe the Jordan Willams interview, before finishing this diary, all before 11pm, I might add, which has got to be some sort of record for me.
My alarm is set for 6am tomorrow so it’s time to bid you Goodnight.
Once I'm reunited with the wifi at the training ground in the morning, I will upload footage from today's sessions.