Chris Williams draws his Spanish tour diary to a close
Tour Diary- the final instalment
Where did I leave you? Oh yes. On Tuesday night the team won 2-0 in the first friendly of the tour. It is important for a press officer to know when to distance themselves from the players so I step off the team bus at a roundabout in Mijas and the rest of the squad and backroom team head off for some relaxation in Porto Banus. I leave the bus to a rousing chorus of ‘Oh, Michael Van Gerwen’. Bit rude.
Since the press box at the game was a corrugated steel box with no windows I reckon I lost four pints of fluid, so I replace that fluid and then crash for the night. I’m up at 6 next day though and by 7 the Chairman is popping round from next door for a cuppa. I then cadge a lift to the team hotel where the wifi works and there is a plug. I’m a simple man, those two things are all I need to be happy. I spend nine hours sitting in a chair writing about football. Most of next week’s programme against Leicester is sent back to the nagging editor who does not accept my new ‘Manyana’ attitude at all.
I get a break mid-afternoon with a chat poolside with a few of the players and staff. There is a golden rule. ‘What happens on tour isn’t discussed in front of the press bloke’ so tales from their big night out remain theirs and theirs alone I’m afraid. Otherwise I could really stitch Liam McWhirter up right now…
I’m desperate for a programme interview so pick on the ever happy Benji Buchel. Interviewing a keeper who has tonsillitis and is speaking in his second language is maybe not a sensible option but he croaks out enough for 500 words which is good enough for me.
At 7pm the players trot out for a late training session. It looks like hell and they return absolutely shattered. I wave a sympathetic glass of red at them as I eat my dinner but it is early nights all round.
Up at 6 again and shock horror it’s raining. Love it. A break from the cursed cruel sun and the early training session is conducted under cloud cover. It’s usually Derek Fazackerley and Chrissy Allen in charge but today at one point Michael Appleton steps in and livens things up with a few choice words of ‘encouragement’. Even I buck my ideas up and the intensity of training definitely goes up a notch or two.
Then it’s back to the foyer and a wait. Callum O’Dowda is leaving us for Bristol City so there is a day of emails and phone calls while everything is sorted. If you notice, clubs usually launch stories like this simultaneously and that means plenty of co-operation with my counterpart Adam at Ashton Gate. Interestingly City fly out to La Manga , just up the coast, next week to replace the departing Sheffield United. We moved in here at La Cala on the day that Birmingham City left and will be replaced by Southend. We seem to be the only club with 700 fans here though.
We release the story at 6.30pm Spain time and I’m immediately in a car with the Chairman and Greig Box Turnbull for the Yellow Army Beach Party down in Benalmadena. Amazingly we get stuck in traffic- that doesn’t happen on holiday surely? – but the Forever Beach Bar is already filling up nicely and we have a couple of drinks with fans who seem pretty chilled about their week here. One has celebrated with a brand new tattoo based on that infamous Swindon banner. Maybe I’ll get one myself.
There are veterans of the Boston trip from years ago and tons of people who were in Austria last year. I can’t help thinking that it’s actually everybody from Austria; that was such a good trip and I’ve seen most of the fans over here again. Perhaps we have created a monster? Can we get it to 1,000 next summer? If so then we are perhaps making something totally unique: places should be paying us to come, given the trail of bar bills and happy fans that follow us…
That may be a pipedream but in reality this part of Spain has been an excellent choice because it is geared up to catering for so many holidaymakers. Even so, as the Beach Party becomes busier and busier you can see outsiders casting glances and wondering what on earth is going on. If I have one regret this week it is leaving the party too early. I miss out on having a beer with so many friends, not to mention members of my immediate family, but there is a final team meal back up in the mountains to follow one of the hardest training sessions of all.
The players took Darryl out on Tuesday so he repays the compliment with a fantastic meal. Squad, management, the board, staff and sponsors smile, laugh and look forward to the ten months ahead. There’s a game tomorrow so after a great ’thank you’ speech from John Lundstram (I think it’s a thank you, no idea what our new scouse skipper actually said) the players get to bed, leaving the staff to chill out a little as our Spanish adventure draws to a close.
Big day on Friday with training and our final game against Marbella. The Yellow Army will march up here into the hills and make an Amarillo Island in a fantastic venue. What do you want from a pre-season tour? You want players to get fit and bond as a group. You want one or two games to gain match sharpness. In the case of Oxford United you want hundreds of fans to have a brilliant time. Job done. New season. Vamos.