Travelling with a football team is a constant learning process.
Today’s lesson is one of being economical with information about oneself.
Casually letting slip that I had a couple of unsuccessful goalkeeper trials with Macclesfield Town as a teenager has proved to be a catastrophic error in judgement.
No sooner had the words left my lips in conversation with goalkeeper coach Dave Felgate and new manager Patrick Vieira I’d unwittingly found myself put forward for a coaching session with EDS keepers Angus Gunn and Ian Lawlor this week.
Despite my protestations, Lee of City TV has made the case that it’s a good opportunity to show fans just how tough it is to be an elite youth goalkeeper through the prism of your average football club journo.
With my impending humiliation weighing heavily on my mind, I sloped off to the NK Novigrad Stadium for the first time for the team’s morning’s training session.
It was an intense tactical session focusing on team shape and England youth international full-back Ashley Smith-Brown joined the squad for the morning as he continues his comeback from an injury-hit 2012/13 season with this real boost.
After a lengthy, thought-provoking session, there was time for some free-kick practice and the training mannequins were lined up on the edge of the penalty area.
Centre-backs aren’t known for their set-piece prowess but it’s clear from this morning that Mathias Bossaerts is keen to buck the trend and follow recent example Sergio Ramos as a free-kick taking defender.
Sinan Bytyqi was arguably the pick of the bunch in this section, shaping a couple of glorious strikes over the mannequins and beyond the reach of Messrs Lawlor and Gunn in goal.
Even I might have struggled to get there once or twice…
Vieira doesn’t seem to be short of options in the free-kick department, as Olivier Ntcham, Seko Fofana and Alex Henshall all notched as the sun beat down on the small coastal stadium.
After training, I had the opportunity to gain some tips from the Goalkeepers Union as we sat down to interview Gunn and Lawlor for City TV.
It’s clear that the likeable pair get along very well despite their rivalry for the no.1 shirt and the two talented youth internationals had plenty to say on their areas of strengths and weaknesses, as well as their targets for the upcoming season.
After lunch, it was George Evans and Kieran Kennedy’s turn for the glare of the camera and both spoke confidently and entertainingly on the new era at under-21 level at City.
In the evening there was an opportunity to see Vieira, new under-18s boss Jason Wilcox and former Welsh internationals Simon Davies and Neil Roberts dust off their boots for a staff game against a local XI.
Two years out of the game had clearly done nothing to dampen Patrick’s competitive edge but it was ex-England international Wilcox who rolled back the years with a sublime strike around the goalkeeper and into the far corner.
Pick that one out!
A player and staff quiz hosted gamely by under-21s Performance Analyst Aaron Briggs was the night’s entertainment and despite mine and Bossaerts’ best efforts as Team MB, Matt Cook and Gunn were triumphant.
Tomorrow City u21s take on Croatian u20 champions NK Osijek in their first official pre-season friendly under the new manager.