I awoke this Monday morning with the ever present clouds nestling lazily over the valley below this beautiful spa hotel.
The Panorama Royal Spa Hotel is located in a prime position atop a large hill/small mountain, I’m not quite sure which, and as a result has an excellent panoramic view (hence the name) of the valley beneath.
The hotel is part of an elite group of “Healing Hotels of the World” and was built in accordance with the teachings of Feng Shui. Now as we all know (ahem) Feng Shui originated from ancient China, and claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment... and that Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, is exactly what this week long pre season training camp is all about.
As per usual, breakfast was available between 8 and 9am. This was followed by a set piece meeting for a number of the players and then medical and prep. All the players then scooted off on their bikes, down the incline and on to the Training Ground in preparation for an 11am start.
The hotel and indeed the same ground played host to Hungarian league champions Ferencvaros only last week whilst, as we depart, our places will be taken by La Liga side Villarreal.
Our host here, Zivko, said how much he enjoyed hosting English clubs as they are somewhat less demanding than others. He told me that Villarreal had asked for all pitch side advertising boards to be covered over as the local advertisers message could conflict with those of Vallarreal’s Partners. I told him I’m sure our Partners would have understood.
Anyhow, as training started the rain fell quite heavily which was not good news for Zaheer Shah. Zaheer is part of the three man Analysis Team under the control of Luke Stopforth... Taylor Irving making up the trio. Each day thus far, one of them has had to use a stepladder to scale the roof of SV Kirchbichl’s social club to get a prime position to perform their much needed analysis work. So it was Zaheer’s turn to get soaked this morning.
As said, the work undertaken by the Analysis Team is crucial to the Coaches. This is how it works. Zaheer will film each drill performed by the coaching staff with the players, and sends the signal to the bench below. On receipt Taylor will code each session and take clips for live analysis. Meanwhile, Luke was filming, with his iPad, the goalkeepers sessions and technical detail for our goalkeeping coach Inaki Cana. Later on when there was a split session with Thomas taking the attackers and Brian the defenders, Zaheer covered Thomas’ group session whilst Luke did the same for Brian. Needless to say over the course of the week the jobs get rotated.
With all the sessions being filmed it did mean at one point this morning that Thomas (and a few irate players) asked for VAR (Varying Anomalies Resolved) on a disputed goal! The Analytical team were able to determine that the goal was indeed offside, much to the chagrin of a couple of players.
With this morning’s sessions over we returned to the hotel for lunch and to see on the flip chart what we had in store during the afternoon.
First and foremost, there are some clinic sessions available for the players to have a massage to help ease the pain (from the training and the cycling).
Then its off to the Training Ground again but this time for Football Golf. The players and staff have already been divided into four teams by Kev O’Connor who is organising a number of challenges during the week which will end with any number of forfeits for those languishing behind the other three teams.
For this particular fun challenge the teams are split down into even smaller groups, comprising three or four members, and they have 12 “holes” or targets to hit in the least amount of attempts. The holes include chipping into a bin, volleying over a high fence then scoring into a reduced sized goal, plus others which are too complicated to describe here.
The three individual players who recorded the two highest scores will have to officiate in Friday’s staff match!
So I’m sure you’d like to know who won out of the players, and more importantly who trailed in to the last two places. So, congratulations to Canice Carroll who recorded the best score by a player with 36, with Christian Norgaard not far behind on 38. Commiserations to Jan Zamburek, Rico Henry, and Cole Dasilva who recorded 53, 51, and 51 points respectively, although of course they could only blame themselves.
However well done to the overall winner, Chris Haslam with 34 points and the organiser Kevin who himself recorded a very impressive 38 points.
The results were announced at dinner this evening, as indeed was the fact that it was Rico’s 22nd birthday. Following on from the singing of Britain’s most recognised song, Rico made the briefest of speeches albeit under sufferance.
But of course the main part of the evening was the second episode of “Newcomers - Brentford’s Got Talent - The X Voice” competition. Tonight, with six players still eager and ready to entertain, the names of Fredrik Hammar and David Raya were pulled out. Swedish born Fredrik was first up and gave a stirring and quite animated version of Ben E King’s 1961 classic “Stand By Me”. He was followed by newcomer David who was disappointed when he heard Harvey sing “Wonderwall” the previous evening. It had been David’s original choice but the rules (Ancient & Modern, circa 1949 item 22e) do not allow for the same song to be chosen by more than one person. Instead he chose “Sol Solet” a traditional Catalan children’s song which in truth meant as much to me as Uncle Kracker’s “Follow Me” the previous evening. So fair play to David and I’m sure it may well have resonated with both Sergi and Inaki.
And that was that for another day. What will tomorrow bring? I can’t wait as it will once again be spent in the presence of my heroes.