Day two in Portugal and it was back to the training ground for the boys where there was more hard work in store at an entertaining morning's session.
After the initial stretches, the squad were led through a drill that focused on passing technique – the notion of driving through the ball.
It was an interesting analogy to hear u18s head coach Adam Sadler talk of the player’s feet as golf clubs and this drill was to make sure each squad member had every club for every occasion in their metaphorical bag.
For what it's worth, judging from my ball-boying on this trip I think I have a broken sand wedge and not a lot else...
From there, it was onto some shape work which first team coach Roberto Mancini is a known proponent. Splitting into two teams, the game was routinely stopped for Adam to step in and give some instruction on what could be improved.
The midfield quartet of Jack Byrne, James Hardy, James Horsefield and Sinan Bytqi really impressed in this section of training with their passing range, movement and patience in possession.
Sadler tried to drill into the players that they carried their own responsibilities within the team and should be autonomous for their role, manipulating the opposition with their own appreciation of space.
There weren’t many goals to speak of, partly thanks to a world-class save from Billy O’Brien, but Brandon Barker did slot home late in this portion of training.
Next up, the players split into two groups – namely, the scholars and the younger boys. What followed was the most entertaining section of training – 1 on 1s and 2 v 2s.
I followed the scholars and there was a real sense of enjoyment as they kicked off the 1 on 1s, where you would stay in the middle of the circle until you could make a tackle.
It’s probably best just to watch this guerrilla footage I took on my mobile phone and see for yourself but proud Westlife fan Irishman Jack Byrne was full of beans to say the least:
Next up, the 2 v 2s which were a showcase of the wonderful technique some of these players possess – and not just the midfielders, might I add – the defenders Sam Jones and George Swan weighed in with plenty of goals themselves.
This was a test of endurance, too – each drill would last 2 minutes before a minute’s break and it was striking that players were taking on shots earlier as the time wore on and legs grew tired.
We'll bring you coverage of the matches against U.D Leiria, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon here in the Academy section of the site.