The troops walked wearily down to breakfast on their rest day following the disappointing result against PSV Eindhoven but our coaches made sure that there was no time to feel sorry for ourselves.
A relocation from Eindhoven to a new training base at Delden for week two of the tour lay in wait. The facility at Delden will also play host to Sheffield United, Portsmouth and Bradford City – and a mini tournament to round the trip off.
A planned detour through Amsterdam was also on the agenda as we left Eindhoven on Sunday morning to attend the Johann Cruyff Shield which is the equivalent of the Community shield in England.
Also in the offing for the day was a stadium tour of the Amsterdam Arena and ‘tweet tour’ of the city centre.
The planned excursions began at the Amsterdam Arena. Each team toured the stadium for an hour and it was our first opportunity to mingle with the players from the other clubs.
After the tour, the next stop was central Amsterdam and the ‘tweet tour’, which consisted of finding landmarks from given clues and tweeting a picture of it with your group.
After being given strict instructions and further details about the city, the group was set loose to explore though we did manage to steer clear of the notorious Red Light district. Before the Ajax and Zwolle game participated in a Q&A session with legendary Dutch Keeper Edwin van der Sar.
The session was again in the company of the other English teams, with each taking it in turns to ask questions to both Edwin and his son, Joe, a young goalkeeper currently on the books at Ajax.
When van der Sar walked into the room many of the lads were star struck by the presence of a player who has done and seen it all before.
All four teams were captivated as he answered a series of questions and at times reeled off a who’s who of former team-mates from Zinedine Zidane to Cristiano Ronaldo.
After the session had reached it’s conclusion, there was little time to grab a bite to eat before it was time for the match to kick off. Dutch champions for the fourth year in a row, Ajax, were to face cup winners, Zwolle.
On paper, the game seemed a foregone conclusion but with Ajax’s attack lacking any sort of penetration or fluidity Zwolle capitalised on the counter attack to score the decisive goal.
From there on in, the game was an uphill battle for the league winners and when final whistle was blown Zwolle had deservedly claimed the shield. The trophy presentation promptly followed, with a few of the lads grabbing the attention of a handful of the winning side, for a ‘selfie’ opportunity.
After rendezvousing at the team bus, the last course of action for the day was the two hour coach journey to Delden from Amsterdam and bedding down in our new home for the next week.
Breakfast the next day was scheduled for 7.30am – the gym at 8am (for half the team) before everyone took to the training field at 9am.
An early start gave the opportunity to blow out a few cobwebs with stiff legs being activated and forced into action. The morning session was an extended one, running up to two hours, with a shorter and more casual session planned for the afternoon.
Between the sessions, players took full advantage of the couple of hours and caught up on some much needed sleep before we got back to work in the afternoon.
After dinner, the coaches decided to use the time very constructively and designed a group activity of video analysis for our specific positions. Split into our positions, the task was to watch a half of a top level match, of our choice, and pick out several points of note.
From there we had to analyse the clip and talk about good areas of play as well as poor and the present the focus of our analysis to our peers.