A first training session in the Far East and an incredibly rewarding trip on day three of the tour...
Day three and I’m pleased to report that the boy’s interest in my size 14 feet seems to have subsided, however, skills coach Kristian Wilson is like a dog with the proverbial and is speculating on whether I could swim faster than the Thorpedo. I’m happy to let him speculate for now and to keep my t-shirt on my back…
It was an early start for training at the Jalan Besar stadium, not that the time did anything to take the edge off the heat. The boys are required to have a urine test on each morning of the tour to ensure that their hydration levels are healthy.
There’s a constant need to drink water here, no sooner have you had a mouthful then you need another but thankfully, the organisers have provided enough to fill the hotel swimming pool.
At the stadium I met with Helmizan, who is Vice President of the Singapore Manchester City Supporters Club. We had a quick chat with him about the growing legion of City fans in Singapore and there’s no doubt that Helmizan is as knowledgeable about the Blues as anyone, and it was great swapping anecdotes on Niall Quinn headers and Manchester derbies of yore.
Scott Sellars, Kristian Wilson and Darren Bowman took the team for three stations of drills for half of the hour we had at the stadium. The pace was quite relaxed as they are eased into playing at the soaring temperatures. There were regular water breaks and Keith O’Connor, the team physio, was on hand with ice and bottle after bottle of water to keep the lads cool.
Darren Bowman in particular, kept reinforcing the importance of dictating the speed of play as a means of energy conservation. The players were then divided two halves of the pitch for scenario-based drills where attack was pitted against defence.
After an initial period where everyone was getting used to the conditions, there was plenty of quality on show, with defender Charlie Oliver putting in a few commanding headers to keep the attack at bay and Joe Nuttall was a powerful presence in front of goal.
A visit to the Singapore Disability Sport Council (SDSC) followed where the team played alongside Singaporean disabled footballers and took part in some more drills. I was quite taken aback with the maturity the City team approached this with – there was a real sense of enjoyment from them as they chatted to the local team and answered their questions.
Meeting Fazia, Coach Zai and his assistant (and full-time pilot) Chris was an honour too. Fazia was working in PR for ESPN before she felt the pull to do something positive and I really enjoyed listening to why she does the work she does and seeing for myself the difference it makes.
In football, it’s easy to be cynical and lose perspective because of inter-club rivalries and paper talk but this afternoon was a refreshing antidote to all that negativity and I’m sure it will leave a real positive imprint on these young footballers.
That’s all from me for today but on day four I’ll be looking ahead to City’s first match of the tournament, against Vasco da Gama and musing on ways to watch England v Italy at 2.45am local time, without being exhausted all day on Monday… I’ll get back to you on that one….