With us playing Cardiff on the Friday, it meant we had Saturday off which was a nice change. I watched Soccer AM in the morning which is something I don’t generally get chance to do with me playing on Saturday mornings usually. It was a real joke as normal, banter is always flying on that programme.
With the day off I decided to go down to watch my old team play West Bridgford Colts in the quarter final of a cup competition. My old team actually plays just across the road from the Forest Academy on a big area of football pitches. It was good to go down and see my old team mates play who I spent so many good years being successful with. My old manager Paul was there and it was good to talk to him about the old days and that everyone was still just as enthusiastic about the team now as they were back five or ten years ago.
One of my Primary School mates called Greg was playing and how he never got scouted for a club I’ll never know, every time I see play him he bosses games in defence, you’d know about it if he tackled you put it that way! They won the game 2 – 0 which was pleasing and after standing there on what must have been the coldest day ever, I was pleased to run back home at the sound of the final whistle and sit in front of the fire.
I never normally stand and watch games, it’s normally me playing and doing all the running around, but standing certainly made me realise and appreciate what my mum goes through watching me all the time in all sorts of weather! For the rest of Saturday I just stayed in the warm and watched TV, beat the brothers at Pro-Evo again like usual and then went to bed after Match of the Day ready for training on Sunday.
I remember last time we trained on a Sunday we all pretty much ‘had one’. Not many of us surface from bed until the afternoon on a Sunday and that certainly was the case that time we trained. But this Sunday morning wasn’t too bad, it was cold but we trained well and I felt fresh. We did some passing and then went in to some possession phases of play to get competitive and working our fitness a little bit.
We finished training at lunch time and after that I went to the gym for a swim and stretch and went on the massage machine just to have some time to relax and let my muscles recover. After that I went home and had my Sunday roast left-overs at around 4 o’clock.
On Monday it was preparation for our Youth Cup game on Tuesday against Middlesbrough, we trained in both the morning and the afternoon. In the morning we did a bit of shape which is when we have the starting line up set out across the pitch in our positions and go through different scenario’s for when we have or don’t have possession of the ball. We could then try and adapt defensively to their formation so that on Tuesday we would be disciplined and well organised for them.
After doing the shape play we did some crossing and finishing for a short while; before we walked through the positioning for our set pieces and then we went in for lunch after that. We didn’t do a lot of training because we were out again in the afternoon so it was a low energy low key session. In the afternoon we went through running with the ball and beating defenders with our technical coach.
Once we’d done that we carried that on further to finishing against the goalkeeper. We would run at a cone and have to beat it with a trick before taking a strike at the keeper. My shooting wasn’t bad today and was scoring a few from outside the box which was a rarity! The goalkeeper unfortunately dislocated his finger as well and it was indeed my shot which did it – I couldn’t believe it, my shots are never hard, certainly not hard enough to do that to someone’s fingers! I apologized after. We finished for the day around three o’clock and then I went home and watched a couple of DVD’s before getting my head down before the big game tomorrow.
FA Youth Cup Match: Middlesbrough v Nottingham Forest
We reported to the ground on Tuesday at half past eight to have a short meeting with the psychologist, after that we left at around 9.15 on the first team coach which always goes down well with the team when we get to use it (which is a couple of times a season if we’re lucky). The journey up there took under three hours I think. To me it went really quickly, I had a snooze for an hour or so and just chatted to team mates for the rest of it to make the journey go quicker. We checked in at a hotel and had some food almost immediately when we got there.
Once we’d eaten we went back to our hotel room for the afternoon to get a bit of rest. We had to report for our pre-match meal at 4.30 so I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep whilst watching Oprah and Jeremy Kyle in between, it was funny because when we went to the dinner table every lad had been watching it themselves and we discussed the antics of whether or not the lad had cheated on his Mrs.
After the pre-match meal we got onto the coach and travelled up to the Riverside Stadium, we could see it from a distance and it looked amazing from the outside. Once we pulled up in the car park we went in through the players entrance to the sound of boo’s from some little Middlesbrough kids which was pretty funny. Once inside we dropped our kit off in the changing room and went out on to the pitch, the main lights hadn’t been put on yet but the ground was amazing. The stands didn’t seem that tall from the middle of the pitch but with the whole ground having no gaps around it you could just imagine the atmosphere on a Saturday in the Premiership.
We had a chat in the changing room and put some music on to relax ourselves and we then went out to warm up. When we went out I went for a jump as I got on the pitch and felt a sharp pain in my right thigh, it felt like a rip or a tear. I jogged across the pitch and felt it with every step I took, I knew something wasn’t right, I was gutted.
I went and told the physio’s and they took me inside to have a look, they said it was possibly a micro tear or strain or something; but all I could think about was not being able to play. I was desperate to play, so the physio’s took me out and did some work with me and even though it was painful with most movements, I could kick the ball and I could sprint despite the mild discomfort. With that in mind I spoke to the coach and he said I could start the game and if I felt anything then to let him know and he’d make a substitution. I was grateful to be given the chance to see how it was because I would’ve been gutted if I didn’t play.
We kicked off and I went to chase the oppositions defender’s down and it felt pretty sore but I just gritted my teeth and played through it. Fortunately after about a minute we got a break through…. we pinned their defence in to their corner and it resulted in a back pass to their keeper who shanked his kick straight in to the path of Rodders; he then took a touch and had a shot which was blocked by a defender, but then I followed up the shot and scored from inside the six yard box.
I couldn’t believe it for three reasons – 1. I was offside which has been proved by watching the DVD of the game, 2. I was so close to not playing and 3. Because it was literally only a minute in to the game. After the goal it was an even game, they dominated possession but didn’t really get anywhere with it, but we broke at speed and created chances. Just before half time they managed to get a goal so we went in at half time 1 – 1.
In the changing room I just tried to keep warm and keep my leg moving so I could try and continue in the game. Every five minutes I looked up at the big timer and just thought to myself “Ok 10 more minutes” and before I knew it we were in the last five minutes. With about a minute to go we got the winner, George hit a shot from about thirty yards out and the keeper slipped so it went straight over him, it was then a case of catching George and taking him down for the pile on!
We ran out 2 – 1 winners which was a great feeling and in the dressing room we found out that we would be playing Bolton at home in the next round which we were all excited about with it being a home fixture. My thigh was sore after the game and I knew it was going to be a case of not being able to train for a while, but I wasn’t bothered, I was just happy we’d won and throughout journey back on the coach the lads were buzzing.
The following day I had to be in for physio at 8.15 after getting back at gone 12.30 the night before. I had treatment and it was painful so it was just a case of icing it from Wednesday to Friday every day and doing some upper body weights because it was just too sore to do anything else.