Chris Williams continues to update us from United's tour of America
Chris Williams continues his blog with the U's in New Hampshire
Last night was a good night for the squad with a win against a decent Seacoast United Mariners side at the Thornton Academy. A 45 minute drive away from our hotel, the Academy had great facilities including an immaculate 3G pitch complete with markings for football, American football and Hockey. It made things colourful and played well, especially after a fierce downpour as we were driving up.
Deane Smalley and Sean Rigg get the goals in a 2-1 win and it is a buoyant squad who head back down the interstate after. We travel in five big cruiser cars and I have the advantage of Jon-Paul Pittman in my car. He is American so he knows everyone. And which side of the road we should be on. There is one scary moment at a toll booth where I start to pull away and there is a tremendous hammering outside the window. What have I done wrong? I've seen American movies; is it a rogue cop? Nope, it's Damian Batt, sent as a runner to fetch money for the car behind. 'I need a dollar' he says. 'A dollar is what you need. Hey hey" I reply. Nobody laughs.
Back at the hotel we assemble for a late dinner. Once again Alasdair Lane has pre-ordered four healthy dishes for us to choose from. I am starting to dislike him. I need ribs and chips, not professional athlete fodder. I have a beer out of spite. He makes me buy him one too.
In bed by midnight I am up at 5am again, the jetlag still there, and work through Michael Duberry's video diary. Dubes was left with the video camera yesterday and has done a great job. It makes me laugh as I edit and post in to Yellow Player, then it is time for breakfast.
Some of the players have slept well, others are still adjusting, but all are keen and ready as we head for training at 9am. I take a group, Ryan Tafazoli, Alex Evans, and Tom Craddock, who only played for a short time last night, plus fit again Alfie Potter, and they are put through their paces by Mickey Lewis, Andy Melville and Chris Wilder while the two keepers train in another area. Watching Wayne Brown and Ryan Clarke up close you realise just how good they are; some of the saves are world class. This is a very intense session for the players, who work and work and then do a bit more.
Training is on grass at Portsmouth High School, with a backdrop of the High School students doing track work and playing lacrosse. The coaches and mentality at the school are all about excellence and in the blazing sunshine you can see the American Dream in action. One of the students is a mad keen soccer player and is invited to join in with our training. Little things like that, or like the players having specially embroidered match shirts which they will give to Seacoast, or the match pennants that are exchanged, or the team spending fifteen minutes signing autographs as they left the pitch last night, all those little things are important in their own way; The Oxford fan we met at the game last night has been invited to join us in Paddys, next door to the Residence Inn. Mainly so he can buy me some ribs.
After a short sharp session we visit the gym, where I thrash the fitness coach at raquet ball, then we return to the hotel before it's time to board the big bus for Boston for the afternoon. We have two hours to spare so I split away from the main group and do some exploring. It is a bright, open city with such a fascinating history and for a history nerd like me it is a great way to pass the time. I listen in to a tour guide describing the balcony where George Washington and our very own Queen Elizabeth once gave speeches. Possibly not at the same time.
Then it's back on the bus and off to Fenway Park for tonight's game between Liverpool and Roma. It's a 36,000 sell out at the 100 year old baseball stadium and although the game doesn't live up to the expectations the stadium is magnificent. Packed with character and history it is great to sit high in the gods on the fourth floor and watch the game. Roma deservedly win 2-1 before we head into the humid night air and board the bus for home.
As we pour into the hotel at 11am there is stampede for the shop to grab late night snacks then everyone heads for home. Another enjoyable day with hard work in the morning and team bonding to follow. Readers at home, come here. Shhh. Don't tell them but there is a double training session tomorrow. That's going to be hard work to watch in the sun…
Tomorrow: Double training sessions and then the club pool and shuffleboard championship…