A light morning session was the first port of call on a sunny Wednesday morning.
This was predominantly intended to act as a loosening session before the afternoon’s game as we worked on some small possession-based games followed by attacking set pieces.
Wednesday morning had a markedly different vibe, with the squad showing a far more concentrated approach in anticipation of the first friendly game.
The squad’s customary pre match meal, was followed d by a team meeting conducted by U18’s coach Steve Spooner and assistant coach Gareth Holmes. A video was played during the meeting, showcasing a selection of goals scored by the team the previous year. This process was used to infuse the squad with the togetherness that they enjoyed during the last campaign, inducing nostalgia, especially amongst the 2nd year players.
The mood was a positive one as we arrived to face Willem II U19’s. The team was split into two groups so that playing minutes were evenly divided throughout the squad, during the pre season period.
Quite a large crowd had assembled by the time we walked out to kick-off.. The match was preceded by a minutes silence, in remembrance of those that had lost their lives on flight MH17 just two weeks earlier.
The match started in a ferocious manner with the Dutch side enjoying the early share of possession, winning a succession of corners. Then devastatingly we broke with a lightening counter attack that was spearheaded by Khaellem Bailey and only ended by a last ditch foul that sent him flying to the ground inside the Willem II penalty area.
Our appeals for a penalty were met by a sharp blast of the referees whistle – as he pointed to the spot.
Khaellem had the bravery and strength of character to step up to take the penalty, which he himself had just won, and duly converted with icy composure. The early conversion allowed our mixed side to settle into the game and play the possession based football.
The remainder of the first half was played in the oppositions half and we were unfortunate not to forge further ahead through Kyle Mcfarlane and Khaellem.
The start of the second half was slightly subdued in comparison to what had gone before with the final third of the match effectively turning into a second XI game due to the volume of changes.
Edjidja Mbunga and Corey O’Keefe both squandered chances when through on goal however with five minutes remaining we added a deserved second after Mbunga’s trickery won a second penalty which was converted by David Popa.
As the final whistle sounded everyone in our camp was pleased by the solid start to our tour campaign.
With victory earlier in the day the atmosphere in the camp was relaxed as we settled down for the night at the hotel.
After the match of the previous day our morning was spent very much in recovery mode with a spin session on the bikes followed up by some stretching in the pool. You can probably imagine that – this ended up making Tom Daley’s splash series look serene!
However un-relaxing the morning was, in comparison to the next activity of the day, it seemed to ooze tranquillity. Next up for the group was a two hour canoe trip in the boiling hot sun, through forestry buzzing with mosquito activity.
The day trip that started so well, soon turned into calamity !
Jordan Potter and Leighton Smith surged into a commanding lead, while the remaining canoes were left battling it out in their slipstream. As the kilometres went by the competitive spirit of most evaporated under the scorching sun.
Corey O’Keefe and Steve Seddon’s poor flirting techniques left them being pushed into the water by a couple of Dutch girls! After that a number of canoes capsized and stress levels started to soar as high as the temperature with Dominic Bernard and Wes McDonald berating each other.
The tail of the group reached their final destination, in just under two hours and the early finishers welcomed them, with everyone proudly comparing their array of mosquito bites acquired on the course.
A quick pit-stop for dinner back at the hotel revitalised the group, so we were able to change around and get back out of the door. This time for the Europa League qualifier between PSV Eindhoven Vs SKN St. Poelten, at The Phillips stadium.
The match itself was largely uneventful with PSV running out 1-0 winners, following a headed goal in the 55th minute.
The coach journey back to the hotel from the stadium concluded another day for the team out here in the Netherlands, with Friday looming and bringing with it the team’s final preparation before the ominous challenge of PSV’s U19’s.