So we move on to our first full day at St George’s Park. When I was growing up Sunday was known as “the day of rest”. Not so here for our red and white heroes.
An early breakfast was followed by a meeting to lay out the programme for the day ahead. This was followed by medical prep administered by our excellent medical team. This can be, and is, ideal preparation for the exertions to follow. I was sorely tempted.
Then we were off to a place I normally try and avoid for health reasons - the strength and conditioning gym which includes Olympic lifting racks, integrated force platforms, a bespoke infinity rig with incorporated throwing wall, monkey bars, pull-up bars, anchor points for bungees and suspension trainers. Keizer functional trainers and a Swift timing system for speed measurement. Plus of course kettlebells, slam balls and battle ropes.
Needless to say, I selected the equipment that was best suited to my needs and was delighted to find a large looking piece of metal on which I could sit comfortably and oversee everyone else, albeit from a safe distance.
After the exhaustions of the above it was off to “The Alan Shearer Pitch” at this complex. All such pitches are named after legendary English internationals and I’m sure I noticed Ivan looking around to find a good plot should St George’s expand with more up to date icons.
On arrival, the players were put through their warm up routines by our Head of Athletic Performance Chris Haslam before the group was split into two. One such group, under the insightful tuition of Thomas and Brian, worked on what is best described as one touch passing, although that over simplifies it, whilst the other group were working on set pieces. Needless to say after a time the two groups swapped over. Meanwhile the three keepers, David, Patrik, and newcomer Matt Cox, were being put through their paces under goalkeeping coach Manu Sotelo. Then everybody joined in a possession drills session under the direction of King Kev.
Following a very heavy, hard working morning on the pitch, I was again able to totally participate. Yes it was time for lunch!
After a brief relaxation period post lunch, it was another session in the gym followed by a visit to the pool which took up the time before an evening of entertainment was in store for the players and staff directly after dinner.
Don’t get too excited was the general feeling of those in attendance particularly once they knew it was the customary singing induction for those who hadn’t previously graced us with their presence at an away venue.
With the newly acquired players, together with those members of staff for whom it was their first such experience, bolstered by the inclusion of a couple of visiting personnel, the lineup was to total eight! However to save the suffering and the fact that meetings had been arranged starting at 8pm, only three got the opportunity to show that the best way to entertain anybody is with their football prowess not their singing ability. And, true to form, 66% didn’t disprove that analogy.
In fairness, young Matt Cox nervously fingered his mobile to help him with the lyrics of Ed Sheeran 'A Team'. But his voice didn’t really carry to the back of the room (which is where most people would like to have been). Second up was Kris Ajer, and it has to be said that his performance was right up there. Not quite to the standard set when Dan Bentley gave his excellent rendition of “Mysterious Girl” by Peter André a few years ago, but nevertheless he did have a voice. In fairness, given his physique, who would have said otherwise, certainly not me!
Finally it was Frank Oyenka’s turn to impress. If he was looking to impress he would have been better waiting until next Wednesday evening to do so. With his mobile looking as if it was superglued to his ear, he “sung” Psquare’s “Bring It On” which sounded as if he had his earbuds in and was singing along to whatever he was listening to…and we all know how that can sound! No doubt a number of you would bear witness as it found its way out onto social media.
However, the evening’s entertainment plummeted to new depths from 9pm (following the football meetings) as a number of players, who will obviously remain nameless, asked if they could watch a certain programme on the big screen in the meeting room…and they were granted their wish. Now, for me, I quite enjoy Emmerdale, but I am prepared to give it a miss this week.
And so to bed.