Ah, this is more like it… the sun has decided to make an appearance on Day Two of the City EDS and Academy pre-season training camp.
Tuesday morning brought 29 degree heat and glorious blue skies, more in keeping with the weather we experienced here in Novigrad in 2013.
It turns out the ten minute walk to morning training is the perfect amount of time for a quick Q and A with squad members which will be used in the match day programmes next season.
New first-year pro James Horsfield was first up to reveal his favourites, bests, worsts and either/or’s.
During the course of our quick chat I learned that James likes Haribo, is bad at German and doesn’t really watch television.
I can get behind the sweets and the poor foreign language skills but no television? Honestly, kids these days…
Development Coach Christian Lattanzio had told us that many of the squad would never have had a harder day of training than their session in Croatia 24 hours previously.
With so many players stepping up from under-18 football (no cakewalk either, by the way), it’s inevitable that this next level promises to test these youngsters to a previously unprecedented degree.
Given that, it was really surprising to see just how sprightly and sharp the players were on the morning after their day of lung-busting pressing drills – especially Jordy Hiwula, who was in a rich vein of goalscoring form.
2013/14’s top-scorer at under-21 level helped himself to a magnificent seven goals in the small-sided game which brought the session to a close and most of them were very handsome, indeed…
French midfielder Seko Fofana was the subject of our post-training One to Watch interview, where the Parisian opened up on how he came to the club and on the form which saw him nominated for the EDS Player of the Year award which will be announced at City Live next month.
Now, as hinted above, my French isn’t the best (read: non-existent), but when I asked him if Patrick encourages him to shoot from long range since his 40-year stunner against Sunderland last year, his answer transcended language barriers.
“Non… [laughs, adopts Vieira impression] ‘NO, NOOOO SEKO!’”
I’m sure his boss made an exception in the below case…
His next interview with the website will be in English, he assures us, but I’m convinced he’s playing us and is secretly fluent. I think they call that a “Pochettino” in this business…
While the EDS trained at the stadium, the under-18s were hard at work over on the training pitches, working on overloads with a variety of 2s v 1s drills.
They then knuckled down into 5-a-side games where the losing team had to run; the winners got a most welcome sit down and the other two had to clear away equipment.
A sit down as opposed to running beats a gold medal in this heat, I can assure you.
Alex Porter sat down to film “Teammates” with under-18 pair David Brooks and Joe Nuttall after lunch and, as is so often the case in this feature where players are asked to come to a consensus on who is the best trainer/singer/finisher etc, the disagreements made for the most entertaining parts.
Of the revelations to emerge, “bravest” taught us of Joe’s wasp phobia and David’s fear of olives!
Rewinding 24 hours, a mild bout of thunder and lightning briefly threatened to derail the second session of the afternoon but, fortunately, the forks were some distance away.
An exercise led by Patrick Vieira, focusing on maintaining possession in tight areas dominated the evening and the EDS boss certainly knows a thing or two on the subject.
We had interviewed Lattanzio earlier in the day and he had stressed the importance of every session possessing physical, tactical, technical and mental dimensions to ensure that the players are consistently challenged on every levels.
Much of the training is scenario-based – a succession of potential in-game situations that Patrick sets up to test the judgement and decision-making of his players.
I’ve heard it said by many top level coaches that the main difference between playing at the highest level and elite youth football is this ability to consistently make the right choices, with little time or space to operate in and under pressure.
Vieira never tells his players exactly what they should do but rather asks them questions, hoping that his charges will problem solve and find the answer for themselves.
It’s like going to Football School for a spectator and really enriches the experience of watching the game as you learn more about City’s patterns of play that are adhered to throughout the age-groups; from under-8s right through to the first-team.
It’s the level of detail that always strikes me on these pre-season training camps –before I worked for City, I naively used to believe that football was largely chaos and that the tactical influence was often overplayed.
Now I feel as though I fully appreciate how important “game intelligence” and plain old real intelligence are for players to be successful in the game.
These learnings from the last couple of days of training will be put into practice for the first time on Wednesday night when the lads take part in an in-house game at 7pm local time.
We’ll have details of how the game panned out here in the Tour Blog, as well as highlights and reaction here on mcfc.co.uk tomorrow.