Spanish Steps

TODAY is day one of the pre-season training camp near Alicante for Ryan Lowe’s new-look Pilgrim ensemble, but, for me, it’s the second day of a stay at the scorching and sprawling Costa Blanca.

As a result of needing the extra spaces on the team flight from Bristol Airport on Wednesday morning, I was switched out of the block booking to take up a single seat on the flight leaving late on Tuesday night.

The downside of this, primarily, was that I missed the Devon derby excursion to Torquay (some would say, Britain’s answer to Costa Blanca. Those people are not me). It was not all bad, though – an extra night in Argyle’s four-star Hotel Golf Campoamor could be no bad thing – and I was able to catch Rob McNichol’s commentary of the opening few minutes before we took off. As I reclined back in my seat (extra leg room and speedy boarding – thank you Nikki from HR), we were winning 1-0 through Klaidi Lolos’ super strike. I think I prefer to remember it that way.

A short transfer from Alicante airport to Campoamor in the pitch black of night did not offer me much opportunity to make any first-hand observations – other than it was hotter at midnight in Spain than it was when I departed Plymouth in mid-afternoon. The morning, though, provided me with a chance to look around and take in our temporary home for the next five days – but not without applying factor 50 on to my pale Janner skin with a trowel, first.

I never had the opportunity to experience the trips to Delden in seasons gone by, so cannot comment, but I do know that Argyle are in good company at Campoamor. A number of professional sports teams have checked in and out of the venue for pre-season camps in recent weeks – and the Pilgrims will be sharing some of the facilities with a Sky Bet Championship side during their stay.

It is fair to say that there has been no expense spared to ensure Ryan and the boys get the highest quality facilities and environment to build the all-important relationships, on and off the pitch. The four-star hotel resort is situated up a steep hill in the picturesque village of Campoamor, just south of Alicante.

A sprawling green 18-hole golf course surrounds the accommodation on all sides, weaving in and out of the palm and pine trees thriving in the Mediterranean climate, while the sea is visible from our spot at the top of the hill. A stunning and relaxing setting for any holidaymaker. This, though, is not a holiday – and that beach? That beach is for running drills.

The hope, for Pilgrims’ Head of Fitness and Conditioning John Lucas, is that a testing week in hotter climates will help the Pilgrims stamina levels become as evergreen as the trees surrounding the training facility. It is perhaps during weeks like these that I’m most happy to be plying my trade writing about the exploits of supremely fit athletes, rather than putting in the painstaking effort to actually be one.   

At the eastern side of the complex, beyond the swimming pool and terraced restaurant, is where the Pilgrims will go about their business. Three lush football pitches carved into the terrain will provide the perfect canvas for Ryan, Schuey, Nance and Rhys to impart their wisdom and philosophy on a new-look squad. Even down-time activities are likely to come in the form of sports – with a few Padel and tennis courts located a stone’s throw away from the hotel rooms.

The facilities are certainly well-used. On my stroll around the grounds this morning, I saw that Championship side putting in some early morning graft. Ours is still to come.

Now, where did I put that sunscreen?