If ever there were a time to “phone in” a tour blog, it would be now.
I write this dispatch to you, dear reader, as a broken man after an afternoon which pushed my body to its very limits.
But more on that later…
Day four in Croatia began a little later than the previous three, due to the in-house EDS match detailed in yesterday’s blog.
After breakfast, it was time for recovery sessions, which in this case took the form of yoga in the common room and a pool session to work out any stiffness in the players’ legs.
Last night’s exertions had taken their toll on the squad but not unduly – gone are the days footballers used to turn up for pre-season with beer bellies and double chins!
Even at this age, players are expected to take care of themselves over the summer months and, in that spirit, this crop were given a nutritional and exercise plan which kicks in two or three weeks before the team reconvene at the start of July.
This certainly seems to have taken the edge off the time of year footballers have historically dreaded the most.
After the recovery sessions, it was French midfielder Olivier Ntcham’s turn for the CityTV treatment, following in the footsteps of compatriot and best friend, Seko Fofana.
Oli is one of the more intriguing members of the squad for me – he’s a very enigmatic chap, a man of few words; the archetypal strong and silent type.
After a quick light-hearted Q and A where we uncovered his love of TV show The Wire (a man after my own heart), we got into the more serious matters, including his career so far, his path to City and his close, long-standing friendship with Seko.
Now, I don’t speak the lingo and will have to await the translation from our resident translator Sylvie, but my first impression is that we got might end up with really nice interview for you to watch on CityTV soon.
Patrick split the pitch in half for the afternoon session which focused on shape in both attacking and defensive situations – basically, how the collective shift in tandem depending on where the ball is.
He drafted in some ringers from the coaching staff to fill up the numbers, including Dave Felgate, Skills Coach Kristian Wilson and new Team Manager, Marc Boixasa.
Boixasa slipped into the no.10 role at Patrick’s request and he had a certain loquacious style which was not uneasy on the eye – more Riquelme than Messi if you catch my drift, but he did a fine job.
As a lifelong City supporter myself, one of the best perks of this job is the opportunities to speak to people who’ve been at the club for a long while and to mine them for stories about old managers and players.
I got the chance to do this while we watched the tactical exercise as I conversed with Academy Kitman Rod Owen.
Rod has been with the club for 22 years, initially starting in the 1993/94 season (the first City season I remember, funnily enough) as a part-time under-14s coach.
Surely no-one at the club could be better qualified to comment on how much things have changed than he and, from our conversation I can tell that there’s a real palpable sense of excitement at the quality of some of the players coming through at the club.
...City in Croatia: Day four...
I probably annoyed Rod with my “What was Joe Royle/Brian Horton/Daniel Sturridge etc, etc, etc like?” questions but he was very patient and was full of cracking anecdotes, like the one about the under-14s sharing a coach to Lille with Port Vale for a tournament in the mid-90s.
After this unashamed self-indulgence on my part, I wandered off to watch Jose Angel Pozo engaged in some individual training with Kristian at the far goal.
Wilson would throw ball after ball at an intense speed at the Spanish striker, requiring him to show his reflexes and imagination to turn them into the empty goal.
It’s fair to say that the 18-year was in good form as he flicked, volleyed and backheeled innumerable goals in this finishing school.
And then it was time for my re-application to the Goalkeeper’s Union – the cause for my current ailment.
GK Coach Dave Felgate has been twisting the knife all week over the dinner table, insisting that what he had up his sleeve for me this year would make last season’s “Goalkeeper Camp” look like a walk in the park.
The feature will be posted on the website over the weekend.... in the meantime, here's the trailer.
Afterwards, I asked Dave how long I would need to get to the fitness levels Angus and Billy possess and what would be required.
When he stopped laughing, he said that he reckoned it would take a good, solid six months in the gym, lots of cardio and a better diet than I possess now.
Still, I did manage to pull off one or two decent stops, which was enough to win the approval of Billy and secure my place in the GK Union.
What is it they say? A stopped clock is right twice a day.