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Extra Time, Extraordinary!

Day 9

We were up at the usual time for breakfast as we fuelled up for the morning session ahead.

The session began at 10am and was taken by our coach Tim, the session was focused on passing and the retention of possession. It was quite a tiring session as it was very hot and everyone was training to a high intensity.

After training we had some lunch and got ready for our trip into Arnhem which involved us visiting the war memorial in Oosterbeek, this taught us a bit more about World War II.

Michael Kalu at the war memorial.

After we visited the memorial we went into the city centre for some free time where we had ice cream and milkshakes to cool us off due to the heat.

Following that we returned to the hotel when I was challenged to a game of pool by Dereece Gardner, who was confident of a win as he was unaware of my vast improvement from the last time he saw me play pool.

I ended up embarrassing him with two victories as he stormed off the table. After our game of pool we then had dinner and some time to relax before we went to bed.

Day 10

We rised half an hour earlier for breakfast today because we were to travel to Schieman for a training session with the SVV coaches and it was also where we were to face SVV later on that day.

After a long journey we arrived to be greeted by one of the SVV coaches who showed us where to get changed and soon after we began training.

The training session that the coach planned out seemed fairly intense considering we had a match later on that day.

After the session finally came to an end we then went to have some lunch which was provided by SVV and had some time to digest our food before we went for an afternoon swim in the local leisure centre.

We then returned to the SVV training ground to have a pre-match meal and prepare for our match later on that evening. We got changed and found out the team to start against SVV, I was included in the line up to start, everyone seemed relax because we knew we were already in the final but there was still a major focus on the job in hand and we knew we had to impress to try and make the starting 11 for the final on Friday.

Although we were clear favourites for the game we expected a tough match due to the high demand of quality from the SVV coach during our encounter with him earlier in the morning and it was much to our surprise as we won the game 8-0 and it could easily have been a lot more had we been more clinical.

After the game we went and had dinner which was provided by SVV before we returned back to the hotel for some much needed sleep.

Day 11

Everyone was still tired at breakfast after the late night the day before, but we soon returned to normal after we had some food.

After breakfast we had a short recovery session which consisted of some stretches and dynamic movements and after they were completed we then went for a little cycle around the Papendal.

We then returned to the hotel where we had some lunch before we were due to have a training session with former Dutch International Rob Witschge.

The session was pretty light as we had the final the next day but it was still a good fun experience. At the end of the session Rob displayed his top class technique and showed us why he was classed as a free kick specialist by putting a few balls into the top corner before he casually ended the session.

We then returned to the hotel where we had dinner, we then had a brief meeting about the final and what was expected of us in order to come out on top against Walsall.

When that was finished we returned to our rooms to begin preparation for the final the next day.

Day 12

Final day had arrive and we were up at the usual time for breakfast, it was pretty weird having breakfast in the same room as your opponents in the final but it didn’t faze me and the boys as we remained relaxed and confident for the match ahead.

After breakfast, we all got ready for a pre-match training session to work on a few bits and pieces for the game later on. The session didn’t last for long and it was short and relaxed, with our coach Tim just giving us a bit more information on our style of play for game.

When the session finished we then returned to the hotel to relax for a while and had lunch. We found out the starting 11 which I was included in and it was then time to start getting ourselves ready for the match, there was still a relaxed atmosphere around the whole group as we knew we were more than good enough to win the game ahead.

When everyone was ready we then made the long walk down to the pitch where the final was to be played, most of the lads had their headphones in as a way of preparing themselves for the match.

Just before the match kicked off I made sure I reminded the lads that it was just another football match in order to relax a few of the younger guys in the group.

The match kicked off with us controlling the first half and taking a 1-0 lead into half time, we were playing pretty well and should have been more than one goal up.

With us having controlled much of the first half we came out more relaxed which swung us in the wrong direction as Walsall got an equaliser and began to cause us more problems than in the first half, at the end of normal time it was 1-1 taking it into extra time.

Walsall were the more dominant side in the first half of extra time as their direct approach was causing our defence more and more problems. The first half of extra time came to an end at 1-1, all the lads were looking exhausted including me but our coach Tim gave us a talk to lift us and push us forward.

We went into the second half of extra time believing we were the better and fitter side, we slowly started to play our football again and before we knew it we were 2-1 up.

Therefore Walsall began to throw men forward and we also went down to ten men in the final few minutes but we managed to hold out to win the final 2-1.

The whole team was drained, I was so tired that when the 120 minutes were over I fell to the ground and just lay on the grass, so tired that I couldn’t celebrate to my full capacity.

Legless Michael Kalu

After a quick team talk from Tim there was a quick presentation where we collected our winner’s medals and lifted the trophy.

After all that had finished a long walk back to the hotel stared me in the face, I was dreading each step I had to take as I was still tired from all the effort I put into the game but it was pre-season after all so I took a deep breath and began the long journey back.

When we finally reached the hotel everyone got showered down and got ready for the BBQ and presentations. After that was completed, the boys let loose and started displaying their singing and dancing skills but I was still so knackered that I sat out and laughed at the poor singing and dancing.

After this we went to back to our rooms for some rest as we had to be up at 5am to leave for the airport to return back to London.

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