- Video Features from Day One
iFollow – Chris Brass – click here
iFollow – George Miller – click here
iFollow - Tom Heardman - click here
Facebook Live – Circuit's – click here
Facebook Live – Circuit's – click here
Photo Album – Due to connection problems at the hotel, Day Two images will be online at some point tomorrow morning
The light was just breaking through as the players started their circuits, involving running with and without the ball. From the sidelines, it looked quite a gruelling session but even all coaching staff were taking part in this one.
Lee Clark and Alan Thompson were joined by Chris Brass and Ryan Lowe as they all completed the session with the lads. Jim Henry must go through life with players hating his methods but, from the outside, all the lads are very receptive to him and come away from the session looking like they have enjoyed the work they have just done.
Jermaine Beckford came up with an interesting point as the session finished by saying: “Strikers like me and Vaughany don’t like this kind of running because we like to explode with pace” which seemed like a fair point – but he still has to do it!
As Lowey's minibus shuttle service started getting the lads back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast, a quick glance behind us saw Jim Henry, already setting up for the next session which starts at 10:30am
The lads will get the afternoon off on all days whilst in Marbella, as it’s virtually impossible to train in the afternoon heat so, once the 10:30am session has finished it will be lunch time and the lads will have a couple of hours to themselves before the shuttle service starts again at around 5:45pm for the six o'clock evening session starts.
The 10:30am session was gruelling, as most of the lads will admit but, to a man, they put a real shift in. The circuit involved a box marked out in the centre circle. The lads were split into four teams. Two teams ran from the box to the byeline behind each goal, whilst the other two ran from the box to the touchline at either side (See here for the Live Facebook Video). Each individual team had separate drills to complete whilst running such as passing the ball, dribbling with the ball, receiving the ball and just running.
Each circuit was completed ten times – so 40 runs per player, in the mid-morning heat as well. Although gruelling and hard work, you have to credit the lads for their fitness levels. The work being put into them is intensive and Jim Henry is working the lads hard on his sessions.
Jim is a great fellow to listen to, mostly because of his accent. He has a deep, almost Glaswegian, accent about him but his work ethic is outstanding and watching him work the lads is like watching a master craftsman at work. His experience is there for all to see. He is a man knows what he is doing and he does it very very well.
Watching him eat, however, is another thing – the man can seriously put away some food and in large quantities as well – but you can bet everything you have that there isn’t an ounce of flesh on the man that hasn’t been worked into perfect shape. Jim has already proven to be a fantastic addition to the gaffers coaching staff.
As Jim took the lads to one corner of the pitch to cool down, the gaffer and his staff started their own little game. A large bucket of iced water was placed on the centre spot. The aim was to chip the ball into the bucket from outside the centre circle. Lee Clark, Alan Thompson, Chris Brass, Ryan Lowe, Tom Walsh and even Craig the kit man all failed miserably. However, one person hit the jackpot and with, we believe, his first attempt as Chairman Stewart Day hit dead centre to put the ball in the bucket with one kick. The look on his face as he realised that neither Jimmy the analyst nor Gordon had filmed it was priceless. Maybe next time chairman…
The lads got back to the hotel in plenty of time for lunch and the food at the hotel is, again, outstanding. Jim first makes sure that the lads are eating correctly before he sets about it himself. At lunchtime, he devoured pasta with tomato sauce, two bowls of strawberry yoghurt, a bowl full of cherries before finishing it all off with a plateful of asparagus…
One light moment during lunch came when, at the staff table, with the chairman, gaffer and his staff all assembled, a child's high chair had been placed at the table with Tom Walsh’s name written on the top. Everyone saw the funny side, including Tom but it was a nightmare getting him out of it!
With the afternoon free, and the Spanish sun blazing down, the lads have some time to themselves. Most of the coaching staff have booked one of the three, on site, golf courses. James Vaughan and a few of the lads have done the same but whether Joe Murphy will, again, come away as the king of the course remains to be seen.
At around 1:30pm UK time, we finally received the confirmation from HQ that the Tom Heardman loan deal was completed. The paperwork seems to take an age to complete these days but was finally done and so Tom was pushed in front of the iFollow camera for his first interview, which went online just before this blog.
The late session again turned into another positive one for Lee Clark. Jim Henry took the lads for the warm up and got the lads movingbefore, some 15 minutes later, it was down to Alan Thompson who took over. He arranged all the players around the centre circle and put three lads into the middle. Their job was to stop the ball being passed around and they had to touch the ball or intercept it within 15 passes. It looked difficult with the ball being pinged around all over the place.
When one of the three does get a touch, then whoever touched the ball last from those on the outside of the centre circle, and the two players either side of hm, would replace the three in the middle and we started again.
Stephen Dawson didn’t last too long because he just lunged in with both feet, took out his man, in true Stephen Dawson style, and was quickly replaced. Thankfully, it was all in good fun and nobody took a knock.
When it became a little fraught, Alan Thompson banned anyone from brushing sweat off their brow or wiping hair away from their forehead. Jermaine Beckford fell foul to this quickly and spent time in the middle chasing the ball
Finally, we went into a 40 minute 11 v 11 game with the gaffer taking over. He told the lads how he wanted to play, what he was looking for and what he was not looking for. After one or two stop starts, whilst the gaffer re-inforced his ideas into the lads, and a clutch of goals were scored, including an excellent strike from Andrew Tutte and a stunning free kick from Zeli Ismail. The gaffer called time and the long trip back up the hill for dinner and the daily team meeting took place.
We did make a start covering this 11 v 11 live on Facebook but, with the severe heat around the training ground, my phone suddenly went into ‘overheated mode’ and turned itself off. The timing wasn’t the best, but we shall attempt it again the next time.
After dinner it was back to the team initiation and we had more singing this evening as Adam Thomspon, Chris Humphrey, Eoghan O’Connell and Tsun Dai all took to the ‘chair’ and absolutely murdered some well-known songs. Sadly, there’s no chance any of these songs will be shown on the internet though as there is quite a hefty fine for phones at dinner.
With dinner over, and the singing over – some would say thankfully - the gaffer stood to talk to the lads. He made his point about one or two things and then told the lads that he was so impressed with the three sessions that they had done today, that he was giving them tomorrow as a down day. However, there are certain stipulations such no playing golf – he wants them to do nothing for the day except for a light pool session at eleven with big Jim, which we will cover on Facebook live.
So tomorrow will be a quiet day but we will have updates and hopefully get a few of the newer lads in front of the iFollow camera. The Chairman has instructed me to interview as many players as possible whilst we are out here and so that’s the target for me tomorrow – to get as many in front of the camera as possible.
Day Two is over, and the lads will probably say thank God for that, but they are certainly putting a shift in whilst out here. They have committed to everything the gaffer has asked them to do and more and, to their credit, there not been a single moan from anyone and perhaps the biggest boost for Lee Clark – no injuries.
Finally, a word on Alan Thompson. Earlier we mentioned how the Chairman had chipped the ball into the bucket. Alan Thompson had said he could do it but from a further distance - and then proved it by doing just that. Chipping the ball straight into the bucket, from a further distance, and at the first attempt. His celebration he told us, was better than the celebration he did when he scored against Barcelona. I managed to get the chip shot on video, but not his celebration - sorry Thommo, but your video is available to see below...