Welcome back to my first blog of the 2010-2011 season.
No footballers enjoy pre-season and I am no different! It’s a test both physically and mentally, as you have to be tough enough to push yourself and get as fit as possible.
As much as we moan and despise it, we know the running is important for us to get us as fit as we can and to help prevent injury later on in the season.
On our first day back we had to do Niall Clarke’s own ‘Premier League Test’ which involved doing six 320-metre runs, in which you had to complete in about 60 seconds. We then had a bit of football before doing seven 180 meter runs.
It was a very tough first day back but a month down the line, we are all feeling much fitter and hope to better our scores when we do the tests again at the end of pre-season.
Personally pre-season has gone well for me so far, and touch-wood it can continue. I played 45 minutes for the Reserves in their first pre-season game against Sutton United and thought I had an ok game.
I played right back which is still a pretty unfamiliar position for me – it was only the third time I’ve played there in a match. I felt nervous before the game and thought that showed at times during it. I played some stupid passes which I would have never have attempted usually, and didn’t defend as I know I can.
But still, it was my first game in about two months so I can’t be too hard on myself, and must just take the positives from the game. It’s nice to have Dean Austin taking the Reserves this season, as I use to watch him every week when he was a player for us, and can hopefully learn a lot from him as he was also a defender.
PRE-SEASON TOUR – HOLLAND
We arrived in Holland on Monday 19th July, and have were based in Rotterdam for the first week, which was about 20 minutes from Feyenoord’s ‘de Kuip’ stadium. We arrived early afternoon at the Hotel, and after settling in for about half an hour, went for a run around the town. It was a ‘flush out’ run but it was still a blow!
We had our first training session on Dutch soil on Tuesday morning which was good, before coming back to the hotel for lunch and a team quiz in the evening. Unsurprisingly it was the staff team that won the quiz!
Wednesday was our toughest day yet as we had a double session, training in the morning and then again after lunch. We worked on ball retention and hitting teams on the counter attack which is going to be a big part of how we play this year.
Gary was pleased with the work we got done so it was a really pleasing day all round. Pre-season is about getting fit, but if we can still work some tactical stuff into it, it will only help us for the season.
After coming back for dinner, we got ready and went bowling. None other than me, Mr Pringle won the bowling at a canter (out of the players anyway!), with my score of 120 leaving my fellow team mates a long way behind. We all wondered what Eduction & Welfare Officer David Muir does in his spare time, as his winning score of 145 surely couldn’t be a one off!
Thursday turned out to be another good day, as we had a double session with Feyenoord legend and former captain, Ben Wijnstigers. We knew he had captained his national team on other 30 times as well so we were looking forward to training with him, and his sessions were superb. It was very technical session and really enjoyable.
We then trained on Friday and Saturday before moving to our new accommodation in Zeist for the second week, the KNVB. The KNVB is the Dutch national training centre and it is where the Dutch team trained before they went to the World Cup. We were treated very well there and even though it was in the middle of nowhere, we still had a good time.
We had all been looking forward to the second week as we knew the games would be starting and we could start to make the training count for something. Our first game came on Monday afternoon against the Qatar Under-19 national team. For our first game together I thought we played well and won the game 5-1. The win margin should have been greater but we took our foot off the gas in the second half and didn’t keep up the high tempo that had got us where we were.
The second of the three games came 2 days later against a tough and resolute Huddersfield side. Huddersfield we’re a physically strong side and proved a stern test for us. They started the game better than us and went 1-0 up mid-way through the first half. The goal was quite fortuitous as it deflected off me and up over Charlie Mann, but they probably deserved it and looked the better team.
At half-time Gary made it clear that we weren’t moving the ball quickly enough again, and needed to up the tempo. He asked us to raise it and get at them in the second half. I think we responded well and moved the ball much better. Rhys and Ibra were really lively up front, and Huddersfield couldn’t live with them. They both deservedly ended up on the score sheet and we managed to pull it around to come away with a 2-1 victory.
Our third and final game of the tour came the next day against a team from Belgium who had mainly English players. We unfortunately lost the game, but didn’t really do a lot wrong. A lot of us were tired from the 2 previous games in the week, but its pre-season and all about pushing your body so the result wasn’t that important.
Whilst at the KNVB we were also lucky enough to be trained by former Ajax, Feyenoord and national team player Rob Witschge. He was also the assistant to Marco van Basten for both the national side and Ajax. Just like Ben Wijnstigers, his session was very simple but technical and really enjoyable. He showed that simple really is best and over-complicating football just isn’t necessary.
It was a good tour that we all enjoyed and we would all like to say thanks to LFE and Inspire Sport who organised and funded the trip. On a personal level I thought I had a good tour. I came home, with two and a half games under my belt and was pleased with how I performed. We have started the season very positively and can hopefully build on Holland and have a very successful season.