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Finding Netherlands - Day Two: Joy Divisions

27 July 2016

WE sent pafc.co.uk's Rob McNichol on tour with the Argyle squad. His Day Two Diary includes plenty of tales you may well get a kick out of...

DURING Tuesday morning's training, Luke McCormick made a very astute observation. Before I tell you what it was, I need to set the scene. 

At training thus far, I have attended each session with my cameras, videoing and taking still photos - all whilst trying not to get in the way of Derek Adams, his staff and all the players during what we are all really here for. Occasionally, Derek asks me to lower the lens for a short while, while sensitive information is relayed. Mostly, I know when not to be shooting, and if this is for lengthy periods of time, I feel duty bound to help out. 

So, occasionally, I pick up some cones, or put a ball in a bag or, once in a great while, kick a ball back to those doing a drill. And so it was that I was standing near Luke and Vincent Dorel, who were doing some crossing drills, when a stray ball came near me. I pinged it twenty yards back to Vincent with - dare I say it - no little panache. He caught it at his chest, and gave me a thumbs up. Moments later, I was near to Luke when again a ball started to come my way. I started towards it, but paused when I realised Luke would get there just as quickly. Remember, I know not to get in the way of the pros. 

Luke caught my hesitation. "I'm noticed," he said, "that whenever a ball comes near you, you're buzzing. You're itching to kick one around, aren't you?"

I confessed that this was true. People like me, I explained, are often working in football because we realised very early in life that we were never going to be good enough to rise to a level where we would be kicking one for a living. Therefore, photographing them, videoing them and writing about them is as close as we get. We are frustrated footballers, and would love to be in any of their size 10 PUMA Kings. 

In turn, I gave Luke an observation of my own. When we arrived at Delden for the first time, through the main gates and past the pitch we - sorry, i mean 'they'...the wish being father to the thought again, there - would be training on the following day. "Look at that pitch," said first-team coach Paul Wotton. "Just makes you want to get a ball out and kick it around."

That's Paul Wotton, 39 next month, 600 career appearances in the bag, talking like an exciting kid. By the way, I do not mean that as an insult. I think it reveals an enthusiasm in Wottsy that shows just why he had such a successful career. He just loves football. 

That goes for most players, although some may not realise it. Despite talk of agents and money and cars, it is the inner eight-year-old that drives most players. I guarantee almost everyone reading this can remember back to a school moment, either in the school team or at break time, regardless of your ability, when you brought one down from the sky, dropped a shoulder, beat a player, and smacked home a glorious goal. Professionals get to do that every day. That is why they love the game. It's the joy in your heart, not the cash in your pocket. 

Joy is the point of football, is it not? I had a chat with a couple of our Green Army guests today, when at our game at MVV Maastricht, and we were talking about some of our favourite Argyle moments. I cited an example from some years ago. Argyle visited Swindon Town on a Tuesday night and I, just a fan then, traveled up. I had experienced an awful couple of weeks in my personal life, and was really very down indeed. That night, in injury time, Bradley Wright-Phillips headed home a winner to give us a 3-2 victory and I celebrated as much as I ever have in my life. I could also cite a similar story where, in the week my great-grandmother died and I lost a job opportunity, Peter Halmosi's winner at Leicester sent me into raptures. 

Only football can do that, in my experience. Sure, you can watch a great TV show or attend an excellent gig, but there is nothing like your football team getting a last-minute winner. Nothing.

Typically, I would say those moments can never happen in pre-season, but I may now have been proven wrong. 

At Maastricht, there looked to be around 100 Argyle fans in attendance. Think about that for a second. A pre-season friendly for a fourth-tier side. One hundred people. Is that not utterly incredible. I do not care if they came from Belgium (I know at least one did) or Bodmin; Amsterdam or Ashburton; Germany or St Germans. There they were, supporting Argyle I think that is just wonderful. 

And they got 'a moment'. 

When editions of the Argyle history books are written, they will include moments from Hartley, Mauge, Rogers and more. They probably will not feature the goal Yann Songo'o scored on July 26, 2016. But it was a doozy. When the home side made a hash of clearing a free-kick, the ball bounced off of the artificial surface and towards Songo'o, who produced a perfect overhead kick to give Argyle a lead they would not relinquish. 

I imagine that wherever you came from, the experience of watching Argyle in the Netherlands was a fun one. But Songo'o's flourish surely added an unexpected cherry on the Dutch cake - which, from our experience here, will already be pretty sweet. 

We hope that moments will be written during the season that surpass almost all else before it, but for 100 or so members of the Green Army, this was a fun memory to retain forever. Not in the top five, not considered a pivotal occurrence, but a cool moment nonetheless. 

Must dash. Training starts shortly, and there is every chance a ball will come towards me. Do not want to miss that!


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