The City Academy and EDS pre-season training camp is under way and mcfc.co.uk will be here with the lads every step of the way.
Expect daily tour blogs like this one, a video diary from one of the EDS players, interviews, features and more, from this ten-day trip to South West Croatia.
As it was last year, the picturesque coastal town of Novigrad, located on the shores of the Adriatic Sea, is the base for the Elite Development Squad and under-18s players and staff as their preparations for the 2014/15 season ramp up.
We arrived on Sunday afternoon, flying in to Pula Airport just under an hour away from our hotel.
Well, that’s according to EDS Performance Analysis Head, Aaron Briggs anyway…
Day one video round-up
I was lucky enough to accompany the squad on their trip here last summer and it was certainly a welcome return to the Hotel Maestral for what promises to be both a tough, yet enjoyable ten-day stay.
After a limb-loosening yoga session in the private room the hotel has reserved for the team, the boys were given a couple of hours to rest and recuperate after their eye-rubbing early starts.
Apparently there’s a 6’o clock in the morning now. Not that I’m complaining…
That gave everyone a chance to tune into our stream of City v Dundee where the boys would have been proud to see their teammates Jason Denayer, Mathias Bossaerts and Greg Leigh catching the eye for the first-team in their first pre-season friendly.
Predictably, the World Cup final dominated topics of conversation across the dinner tables of staff and players alike when we all reassembled for a most welcome and tasty selection of chicken, steak, salmon, pasta and salad.
The auditorium which will play host to all team meetings, match briefings and lectures over the next ten days was transformed into our own private World Cup final cinema and, it’s fair to say that most of the boys were right behind Argentina.
Even if EDS boss Patrick Vieira didn’t forecast a happy ending for Kun, Martin and Pablo…
I fancied La Albiceleste to avenge their Italia 90 final defeat but apparently there’s no point differing from a World Cup winner… who knew?
By the time extra-time had come to a close and Bastian Schweinsteiger had raised aloft football’s most coveted trophy, white flags were being raised up and down the auditorium, meaning it was time for bed.
When head met pillow, the faint, distant music of triumphant Germans in the hotel bar singing soundtracked our last conscious moments.
But we’re not here to watch football - this week is all about physical conditioning, harnessing a positive, winning team spirit and re-familiarising the players with the Academy methodology after their summer breaks.
Grey skies and drizzle were not exactly the abiding memory of our 2013 visit here but that’s what we were greeted with on our first pilgrimage to NK Novigrad Stadium – the Elite Development Squad’s training pitch for this camp.
The weather is due to change but at the moment, Novigrad is making St Andrews look like St Lucia!
Not that the players would have minded, given what was in store for them on their first morning on tour.
There have been several promotions to Vieira’s EDS squad this season, with James Horsfield, Brandon Barker, Angelino, Ashley Smith-Brown, Kean Bryan, Ambrose, Billy O’Brien and Pablo Maffeo all stepping up to train full-time with the under-21s.
It was also great to see 2012/13 EDS top-scorer Jose Angel Pozo taking a full part in training after recovering from the injury which kept him out for most of the last campaign.
I followed the u21s down to training with CityTV’s Lee Jones and club photographer Victoria Haydn, while our colleagues Alex Porter and Tom Sykes headed to the other training pitches to watch Jason Wilcox’s under-18s, who feature a host of new scholars in their ranks.
After the pre-activation stretches with Strength and Conditioning Coach Matt Cook, it was time for a word from the boss, who focused minds and warned his players of the work that lay ahead.
He wasn’t kidding – watching the stamina drills which were laid out across the whole pitch was exhausting enough, especially given the constant reminders for the players from the coaching team to maintain intensity.
Gradually more work with the ball was introduced, including a passing drill between teams in bibs.
Periodically, two players were picked off and pulled out of this exercise for quick bursts of sprints, jumps and press-ups away from the ball, based on the colour of their bibs… a bit like the scene in the long grass with the raptors in Jurassic Park… only with less dinosaurs and more running.
Hmm, perhaps not the best metaphor – let’s move on…
We sat down with Spanish full-back Angelino after the session film his One to Watch video which will be showing on CityTV in the coming days.
During the course of the interview, we learnt that this newly-promoted member of the EDS squad spoke no English when he came to the club two years ago and there he was, speaking fluently on camera on his journey to City and ascent through the age-groups.
Puts my few half-remembered words of GCSE German firmly in the shade, for sure…
Later this afternoon we’ll be chatting to Development Coach Christian Lattanzio, Goalkeeper Coach Dave Felgate and England youth international stopper, Angus Gunn for a new feature you’ll also be able to see soon here on the site.
Then it’s back to the pitches for another session later in the day… hopefully I’ll be able to retire this waterproof jacket before then!