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George O’Neill - Birmingham City

Fun & Games & PSV

In: |
30/07/14 |

There’s been a fair bit of excitement building at the training ground ahead of this tour so by the time we met to head to Birmingham Airport anticipation had reached fever pitch, with the 6am start doing little to dampen spirits.

Despite a few anxious moments whilst weighing suitcases, getting through customs at Birmingham airport was relatively straight forward considering the number of players and staff. So far so good?
Wrong! On the list of flights displayed on the departure board, one in particular, stayed on longer than any other, “09:40 Amsterdam.” The euphoric mood that had carried everyone out of West Hills training ground, just a few short hours ago, was ended abruptly.

Thunderstorms surrounding Amsterdam that morning had caused cancellations and long delays.

Although it didn’t seem like it at the time, we were in fact rather fortunate, with other teams from England not getting off of the ground. Two and a half hours later, with stress levels rising amongst staff members and players alike, we were finally able to board the Air France flight to Amsterdam.

The flight flew by (apologies for the pun!), with several members of the group participating in a high stakes game of blackjack, with first day bragging rights available for the winner.
Others took the opportunity to catch up on some sleep, though more than one team-mate was awoken with a jelly baby in their mouth. The penalty for sleeping with your mouth open – I suppose!

From Amsterdam airport it was on to our base for the week in Eindhoven. Due to the considerable delays at the airport, we had obviously arrived much later than expected, causing the planned afternoon session to be cancelled. In its place, a thirty minute spin with stretching session followed, to get the laborious day of travelling out of our legs.

After spinning, it was time for our evening meal. With an array of food available there was something for everyone though shockingly, the extremely fresh salad and vegetables that were on offer, didn’t seem to be to everyone’s taste. Not to mention any names!

The last course of action for the day was a team meeting with Steve Spooner, Gareth Holmes and academy manager, Kristian Speak man laying down a few customary ground rules for the stay.
Given the tiring day it was lights out at 10pm and the time to dream of a double session at PSV Eindhoven the following day!

We were up relatively early on Tuesday, with breakfast at 8:30am for a 9am departure for PSV’s training facilities. The now customary game of cards roared with life on the back seats but the short twenty five minute didn’t allow a great deal of play.

However disappointing that was, the views of luscious green pitches and a large adorning PSV Eindhoven badge caught the attention of the entire bus.

Walking along the corridors of the facility, it became immediately obvious, the stature and importance of the academy we had just entered. Lined on every wall, was a seemingly never-ending stream of past players that had made their professional debut at PSV.

Soon after that, we were walking out to the pitches, ready to start our training session. Both of the day’s sessions were to be coached by PSV’s coaches, giving us the opportunity to work with foreign coaches, implementing their Dutch ideology of coaching.

The morning session was quite short and sharp, focusing a lot on quick and incisive passing.

Their canteen seemed almost as extraordinary to many of us, as their coaching had in the earlier session. It carried with it a very laid back atmosphere, with pool and table tennis table’s in that area.
This maybe gave us a small but interesting insight into the way that their academy worked.

Following lunch was a short presentation delivered by PSV’s Under 19’s coach. He explained the culture and philosophy that the club attempts to engrain within their players from an early age.
His talk went some way to identifying the reasons for the incredible number of young players produced by the club, that are then able go on to play in their first-team.

The second session was predominately built around small sided games. It had a very quick tempo to it, with passes zipping across the grass and shots flying from all ranges. Quite an interesting statistic emerged, with Goalkeeper Joshua Tibbett’s scoring more goals than, the usually clinical striker, Khaellem Bailey!

All in all the day training at PSV Eindhoven was very productive giving a very hands on experience of life at one of the biggest clubs in the Netherlands.