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Marbella - Day Five

The hottest day yet, 3rd-degree burn weather according to Stephen Dawson and the 1030 training session went off with no problems whatsoever.

14 July 2017

Again the lads put in one hell of a shift, and with the heat searing down on them, it’s amazing to watch as they complete every session at 100%. Fitness is improving throughout the group and you can visibly see it.

The main talking point came as the session was finishing. Jimmy Dickinson, the video analyst for the first team, is best described as something of a character. Jimmy and Craig Rawson (kit man) work hard and play hard (best description I could think of for public viewing).


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Whilst out here in Marbella, the amount of Bottled Water the lads have gone through is horrific, it must be in the 100’s. Supplies were running low down on the training ground, so Jimmy leapt into one of the many Golf Carts that we have to hand and drove back to the hotel to collect more water.

As he returned down the hill, with the cart laden with more water, a simple little turn to the pitch seemed to have confused him greatly – as he drove straight into the chain mail fence surrounding the pitch. The noise of the collision brought a great response from Alan Thompson, though unfortunately, we are unable to repeat what he said on this blog – much to the amusement of the lads and coaching staff.

Thankfully there was no damage to the cart or the fence, but rest assured, he is now banned from using a golf cart.

Using the Whatsapp group, I asked five of the lads for interviews for iFollow, so these will be online at some point today.

As we started the walk back up the hill, I stopped to watch somebody attempting a par three on the golf course. The green has a large pond to one side. The chap in question placed his ball on the tee, took a couple of practice swings before hitting a great shot towards the green – only for it to land in the pool.

Curious, I watched to see how he would recover from this, take a drop shot of taking another shot from the tee. To my amazement, he marked his card and moved to the next tee. I’d love to see his card for this now sinking ball.

The staff have spent the afternoon on the golf course whilst the lads have either slept or are by the side of the pool. The gaffer asked them not to play golf today as he plans a full 11 v 11 game for the final training session at 6:30, and I am going to attempt to get some sort of follow up on the game. Again, no Facebook Live today as the gaffer wants to use his starting XI for Walsall, so no secrets will be given out.

The second session went swimmingly according to reports, I wasn’t there – I was stuck in the hotel waiting for Sunderland to come through with confirmation of James Vaughan’s move to the Stadium of Light.
James actually left the hotel at 2 am, to catch the 4 am flight to Newcastle. The lads wished him all the best before he left, and he did pop into my room before departing to record the interview that is now freely available on YouTube.

The biggest plus for me, as a Bury fan, James actually asked to do it. It was his initiative to record the interview. He actually asked to cut it short so it as short and sweet. As he left, he thanked me for the hassle I’d given him for interviews

After a day of frantic phone calls between Marbella and Sunderland, it was finally agreed that the announcement would go live at 8:30. I dread to think what my mobile bill will come in as. As JV later reported on the WhatsApp group - "He's had the medical from hell, and has done more running today than he has all pre-season', but he passed it with flying colours. The delay in announcing the move caused a massive problem for me. We are an hour ahead, so at 9:30 (Spanish time) the story had to go live – only we were on a bus heading into Puerto Banus at that time, so the story was set to automatically launch at 8:30GMT.

Not a problem you may ask, but this is a new website, I didn’t know whether to trust the automatic launch of articles, but thankfully all went swimmingly. The interview with Vaugney was on YouTube last night (24 hours before he signed) but was set to private. It was just simply a case of changing it to the public, on my mobile as we arrived at the restaurant, for our big meal and night out.

The night out was outstanding, a superb meal was enjoyed by all, the lads had a chilled night out and before they left for their thoroughly deserved time away (with a curfew), the songs were flowing, the banter was flying and the mood was just excellent. I sat next to big Jim Henry, he eyes were agog as my Rare steak was delivered to the table. He has told me I have to change my diet, he's failing miserably thus far.

Thankfully all the lads were back at the hotel before curfew with no problems reported. Some a little more tired than others, but all in good spirits. Tomorrow's training session will be as tough as they come, so they know what to expect, though the gaffer has given them an extra hour in bed.

The general mood amongst the coaching staff is one of astonishment. One – because a pre-season tour is coming to a close with absolutely no injuries, two – because the shift the lads have put in this week has been literally outstanding from day one and three – because the team spirit is so good.

As I’ve said in previous blogs, I've been involved in two promotion winning sides – but have seen nothing like this. This is special, the bond between the players is unique. Last night they said goodbye to the player that kept them in this league last season, some had known him a few short weeks. There is always that worry that a player leaving can rip apart a squad and break the morale. Not this squad, if anything, it's strengthened it, the bond is tighter than ever, its unique and its special.

Sat 5 August cannot come soon enough for me, or the lads – they just want to get going. And when they do get going, you can feel something special – even now.

Lee Clark addressed the lads yesterday and told them that JV was leaving, he told them not to worry and that a replacement would soon be here. That replacement could arrive in Marbella on Friday, it's not confirmed, but plans are afoot, he may even play against Huddersfield. Time will tell. Lee is not messing around here, he said he had a plan should JV go, and he’s now put that plan into action, he's a man of his word.

Watch this space…

Until tomorrow

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