Ireland Diary - Days 5 and 6
Now, readers you may have noticed that the tour diary has skipped a day. That is because not one of us over here actually knows what day of the week it is. I’m serious. Our days start on the beach at 7am, then breakfast, then hours of training, lunch, gym, dinner, collapse. They merge in to one and it is starting to take its toll. And I also figured that writing the same content every day may take its toll on the readers, so let’s roll Wednesday and Thursday into one article…
Yesterday (that’s Wednesday right?) started on the beautiful beach at Portmarnock as usual but this time it wasn’t a 20 minute jog at full pace, it was a leisurely stroll to set things going after a day off. The players look rested and well and in great spirits, although five hours later they are far less chirpy because they have endured a draining training session that has pushed them to the limits once again.
To cool down they are ordered into the sea before lunch. Some plunge through the light surf with joy. Malachi Napa can’t swim, so obviously every time they go in he is targeted and ends up thrown into the knee high water! ‘It’s not fair’ he grins at me, loving every minute.
That sort of ‘bants’ makes the days so much easier. I wrote in an earlier diary about a player having to put their head on the dinner table and sing a nursery rhyme if they swear? Well over on the staff table anyone under 30 has to ask senior management whether they can start their meal, or leave the table. I am borderline with that age bracket so not quite sure what the procedure should be. I am the veteran of many pre-season tours and know the game but for Amy Cranston, our physio on tour and Ed Waldron, video analyst and youngest member of staff, it must be worrying. When we went out the other night in our civvies rather than kit I asked someone what they thought we did as a company. We were all rather pleased to be mistaken for a team of IT consultants, although Mr Fazackerley’s claims that we were a travelling team of Marine Biologists was quickly rumbled as a lie!
But enough of the staff banter, right fans? You want to find out a bit more about the new players don’t you? So let me tell you my observations so far. Armani Little, newly arrived from Southampton, has done really well and topped all of the analysis charts in training. He runs and runs, but then so do all the new boys. Cameron Norman has such a smooth running style, a proper athlete, while Tony McMahon showed in training earlier today that his delivery and crossing is absolutely top drawer. Samir Carruthers is bright and inventive, although he was beaten to goal of the day today by his roommate Luke Garbutt who lobbed the keeper from six yards out with an unbelievable touch.
You will get to see them in action over here on Monday, although I can ease the fears of any fans stressing that they might miss England’s semi-final if we get through, because it on the same night we play UCD. If England ARE playing then we will move our game to 5pm. We did ring FIFA but they refused to move the England game. If things go wrong then our game remains the same, at 6.45pm.
“I’ll ring you to confirm straight after the game on Saturday” tour organiser Mick told me today. “You may struggle to get hold of me if we win” I said.
I did something I never usually do today. I stopped filming or snapping pictures and instead leant on a wall and actually watched training for a while. There was a long session where the players played out a five-a-side tournament on a full size pitch. Think for a minute and imagine hpw draining that is. The intensity was almost frightening, but almost the whole session included a ball. It ended with 11 v 11 and the pace was just as high as during the opening period. The average distance covered was, I’m told, 11.5km but don’t forget that they are sprinting a lot of the time. How tough is that?
We have clearly signed some very exciting players but I’m struggling a little to identify who the new boys are because they have slotted into the group so easily. Karl is a big part of that because he is open, amusing and authoritative, a genuinely welcoming personality who wants everyone involved. When he ends training he gets everyone; players and staff into a huddle, and makes a point of calling in ALL the staff. I’ve never been in a huddle before but today’s one ended with Dan Bond bursting into song again: “Woke up this morning feeling fine, Oxford United on my mind. We’re gonna win the league like you knew we would….”
As we walk away Cameron Brannagan goads Rob Dickie that he hasn’t got a proper song yet, then we have to sing Cameron’s song to keep him happy. Then they sign ‘ooooh Michael Van Gerwen’ and I get in a sulk and go in a different van back to the hotel.
There is a pilates session, a well-being session, dinner and then rest. We have been here a week I have no idea what time zone we are in let alone the day of the week, but it has been excellent. One more session boys then we start to think about getting our Game Faces On.
Come on Yellow Army, join the fun…