An off-site visit to one of the world’s last standing Roman amphitheatre was a highlight of Day Five in Croatia for City EDS.
After a light recovery session in the gym in the morning, the players boarded the coach for a day out to ward off any concerns of cabin fever setting in.
It was the players’ first time off the hotel complex for an excursion to Pula, a beautiful coastal city at the southern tip of the Istria peninsula.
The limestone Pula Arena was built between 27 BC and 65 AD and is the only remaining Roman amphitheatre to have four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved.
After a quick tour and plenty of photo opportunities, the squad were whisked off for dinner followed by an hour on a nearby beach where the braver members of the group made their way into the water for a dip.
On the way back, the first-team were kicking off their pre-season tour of South Africa and word got around that EDS regulars Emyr Huws, Devante Cole and Shay Facey were given game time by new first-team manager Manuel Pellegrini.
No doubt that gave the players an extra spring in their steps when heading out to the training pitches for their evening session at 6pm.
What we saw at training was another session featuring a high level of technical play, with the team given plenty of ball contact time under the close scrutiny of the coaching team.
Two boxes were set up with cones and the players split into two groups where two defenders in the middle were charged with the task of winning possession from the five.
A “playmaker” also stayed in the centre of the box between the defenders and was tasked with linking play.
I watched George Evans in this role in one of the boxes and was impressed at his ability to step forward, make space and shield the ball from the defenders, helping his team to string together an impressively long retention sequence.
After this drill, Kristian Wilson split the group into England versus the rest of the world for a game of team keepy-ups with a twist…
The players had to link arms in a circle and get across the pitch without breaking the chain – if the ball hit the floor they had to go back to the start in this best of three encounter.
England roared into a 1-0 lead before the rest of the world hit back, leaving a tense final run which was whipped up by master of ceremonies and rest of the world cheerleader, Patrick Vieira, against his English counterpart in Wilson.
On the day England won the first Ashes test, I’m delighted to report that our EDS boys made it a Three Lions double over in Croatia, seeing off their foreign opposition in style, much to the delight of Alex Henshall and the irritation of Albert Rusnak!
Football's coming home!
A barbecue on the hotel’s seafront lawn with the sun going down was the perfect way to sign off on Day Five, with a tough session on the agenda for Monday.