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Marbella: Day Four

It was another early start for the lads. Most were up and about at 5:30 in the morning, ready for a 7 am start down the hill. Physio’s Tom Walsh and Paul Smith were in their medical room, which was a hive of activity with lads getting blisters re-dressed, muscles massaged and any other minor ailments.

12 July 2017

Although Paul and Tom have been busy looking after their every need, thankfully there is still no major injury worries amongst the squad. Both physios are spending a great deal of time with Nathan Cameron and Danny Mayor with treatment and rehab, though mostly from what I have seen, it's working on various strength sessions. Both players were taking part in a heavy boxing session with Jim Henry this afternoon whilst the lads took part in various drills with Jim and Alan Thompson.

With no sign of the sun, the lads were bussed down the hill in Lowey’s fun bus. It’s literally a 30-second drive, but that hill is a nightmare. I know, I walk down it and walk back up it twice a day. It may sound totally madness, but I prefer the walk – let’s face it, I don’t get a lot of exercises to I’ve convinced myself its good for me.


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The first session started as the sun broke over the mountains in the distance. Jim Henry once again took the session. Jim is awesome with the drills and sessions he gives the lads. He works them hard, but he works them fair. He knows what overtraining does to an athlete and you can rest assured, Jim will never over train an athlete. As a sports scientist, he knows his food, his nutrients, where to get the right amount of proteins, what to drink, what not to drink, how to get the best out of an athlete and how to improve them. His conversations around the dinner table fascinate me.

It’s a far cry from getting the ‘trainer’ to flog the lads around Goshen Field a couple or three times. Each session is planned, thought out, constructed and executed with an almost military precision. He’s even trying to make me change my diet. I think he’s taken on a lost cause.

Once the session was over, around 7:40, even at that time – the heat was stifling, the group of very sweaty lads were bussed back to the hotel in time for a shower and breakfast. Once breakfast was over, the staff sat around discussing the remaining two sessions for the day.

The second session started at 1030, and by now, the heat was horrendous. The walk down the hill – which some of the lads did, produced a trail of sweat as they walked. Young Callum Styles followed me down when all of a sudden, he shouted and possibly swore.

Each room in the hotel is entered by key card. Callum had somehow snapped his card in half as he walked down the road, which brought much amusement to the lads.

Under the blazing sun, Ryan Lowe took the lads for a slow jog around the pitch to loosen them up, once in the opposite corner they went through a series of stretches before Jim Henry took over proceedings for a very strenuous and gruelling circuit. Again, the lads leapt into the session and completed everything Jim asked them to do. More sweat, gallons of it – but Jim was ready for his sodium laced bottles of water and made sure all the lads rehydrated and recovered correctly.

Alan Thompson then took over and spilt the group into three. Two groups would play a small pitch. There was only one rule – no more than two touches on the ball. The third group would be to one side either cooling down or stretching. Tony Caig meanwhile climbed the hill behind the pitch to collect any loose balls fired off target – which was many.

The 15-minute games were repeated four or five times with each group playing two games, before being replaced by the third group, and off they went again. It was fast and furious with Lee Clark and Alan Thompson shouting encouragement to all, and with plenty of praise for the work, the lads were putting in.

As the session finished, the lads were once again in Lowey’s fun bus for the trip back to the hotel – though Greg Leigh and Zeli Ismail seem to have used some initiative and have hired a golf buggy for the week.

After lunch, the lads were given the afternoon off, ahead of this evening's session which takes place at 6:30. There will be no Facebook live from this session though as the gaffer wants to work on tactics for forthcoming games – you never know who is watching. We will hopefully (if my phone doesn’t overheat) get some of the warm up with big Jim live on Facebook.

The by now usual walk down the hill started around 5:45, and it was absolutely roasting outside. By the time we got to the bottom of the hill, the sweat was pouring – so God only knows how the lads are getting through these sessions. They are as intense as any I’ve seen in previous years.

The final session of the day again got under way with Ryan Lowe leading the lads around the pitch to start the warm up. In this heat, the lads were soaked by the time he led them back to Jim Henry for a more intense warm-up. Nathan Cameron, I am pleased to report, did the warm up jog, the more intense warm up and the full training session with the gaffer.

Lee Clark took charge of his troops for the final session of the session (does that make sense). One thing I have noticed with the gaffer, when he is on that training ground, he is a different character. It’s like he was meant to be there and some of his one-liners are brilliant.

In one move Tsun Dai beat two men and scored with a crisp shot across the keeper into the opposite corner. Everyone call’s him ‘T’, the gaffer chirped after his goal – ‘T - go and jump into that ice bucket son’. Tsun actually starting jogging towards it, the gaffer then carried on and said ‘hurry up man because you are on fire today’. The smile that leapt across the youngster's face was a joy to see. For a young player to get such a comment from Lee Clark, or any manager must surely do him the world of good.

The session itself impressed Lee, to the point that he actually cut the session short – one because of the heat, but mostly because the lads had again put a shift in. There’s no need for the sprinklers on the pitch, the amount of sweat that dropped on their must surely be enough.

With the session ended, it was back up the hill for dinner and another rendition of songs being murdered. One highlight though was Tom Aldred and Adam Thompson being late for dinner. Tom thought that a quick rendition of a classic (murdered) would get him out of the fine – not a chance. Of the players, all (I think) new additions have murdered a song. The only ones left to murder a classic is the staff – Jim Henry, Tony Caig and Pau Smith. All have thus far refused. To my horror, as this is my first foreign trip with the squad, I am also included in that list – so I may have to murder a classic myself tomorrow.

Another big event today was my suite now has a new occupant. The hotel is fully booked and the hotel staff asked if we could move people around to free up one room. The end result of that is Ryan Lowe is now sharing my suite with me. He better not snore is all I can say, but he is on the couch, he ain't having my big bed.

Also on the road to the training ground, across the valley is the strangest road I have ever seen, it's totally pointless. It’s a small drive, with a roundabout on the end – that leads to nowhere, it also has a zebra crossing. I’ve looked at this road every day this week wondering what it's for. I’ve put an image below, if anyone has a clue what such a road is for – let me know.

The gaffer gave the leads a treat for tomorrow, a night off. Once the final training session is done tomorrow, they are free to leave the hotel and enjoy a night out – but it's straight back into training on Friday for a full day before we head home on Saturday.

Until tomorrow then…

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