At Nottingham Forest there is an annual Academy golf day in which people compete to raise money for the Academy and Coaches and players are allowed to take part as well. We teamed up in groups of 3 or 4 and there were about 4 teams made up of Academy members alone – so you can already guess that it was going to be very competitive!
I was on a team with youth team goalkeeper Karl Darlow and Academy teacher Jim King. We lined up to tee off for the first hole and both Jim and Karl struck perfect shots down the fairway to the disbelief of all the lads watching! However, the inevitable happened and when I teed off, the ball went all of 6 feet in the air and a yard in front of me – oh how the rest of the lads laughed! I finished that first hole with a score of 10, double figures already; I guess I should have expected it.
It took us all of 4½ hours to do the whole course which must have had the steepest hills I’ve ever seen on a golf course. I finished on 111 shots, which was something like 39 over par, having lost about 8 balls. Although it was enjoyable and we had a good laugh, I now understand how demanding golf courses are both mentally and physically and it somewhat tests your mental strength which is something you can relate to in a football match when you’re fatigued and near the end of a game.
On Tuesday we had the dreaded fitness tests. This consisted of a group of researchers coming in from Loughborough University to test our speed, agility and stamina etc… We started off by having our body fat measured, this is where they can see whether or not we’ve been eating the wrong food and getting fat, or whether we’ve grown or not. I’m pretty confident that when the results come back in a few weeks time my fat is pretty low because I follow a fairly good diet.
We did a series of sprints over 30 metres at which we had three attempts and they would take the best time we achieved. Unfortunately for me I’ve never been blessed with blistering pace like Thierry Henry so I had to settle for coming around second to last with my time. Next we did a set of slaloms through cones and I managed to do it a bit quicker than before so I was around the middle of the squad for speed there.
After all these tests came the part we weren’t looking forward to, the ‘yo-yo test’. This is a similar version to the bleep test – you have a certain amount of time to get across 20 metres before the bleep sounds, then turn around and get back before the bleep sounds again. You then have 10 seconds to walk around a cone before you do it over and over again as it gets faster. Our coach set out a target for all of us to beat the levels we set during pre-season, so common sense would say that you’d be able to beat that after having 8 weeks more training since last time, but it was still just as tough! I managed to beat my previous score by over a level so I was pretty happy with that but all of us were blowing by the end of it.
In the afternoon we were back out training and did work on a new shape which was a lighter session than in the morning with all the fitness work. We were trying out a new formation so it was more of a technical and tactical session for us on what was a long and tiring day after playing golf on the Monday.
Match: Bolton Wanderers v Nottingham Forest
We travelled to Bolton on Saturday to play their Academy and we were in search of our first win of the season after losing last week to Liverpool. We were trying the new formation out which gave me a role that I preferred to play in because I was a second striker and it meant that I could come deep and get the ball in midfield and turn. As a team we had prepared well for the game by having a good journey up and warming up with a high tempo after looking sluggish off the bus.
We started the game well and for the first half an hour we looked pretty strong. We moved the ball well creating a few half chances, and worked hard as a unit when out of possession trying not to let them play which worked to a certain degree. However, in the last 10-15 minutes of the first half we let our foot off the pedal and they came at us. We conceded a very sloppy goal with about five minutes to go which meant we went in at half time a goal down having played quite well for most of it.
In the second half we never really played like we did in the first half hour and spent most of the 45 minutes out of possession chasing them down. I was frustrated because I felt I hadn’t created enough problems for their defence and we had no clear cut chances.
We ended up losing the game 4 – 0 which was a very disappointing score line for all of us. That’s 4 games without a win now which isn’t good enough and we must put it right next week. We play Blackburn at home on Saturday in what is a must win game for us as the lads are low on confidence and a win is what we all desperately need to kick start our season.