ON the first day of the Pilgrims’ pre-season tour of Alicante, manager Ryan Lowe made it clear to his players that they would need to have a good understanding off the pitch, as well as on it.
The Greens’ 2-0 pre-season win over Sky Bet League One opponents AFC Wimbledon in La Manga on Saturday surely served as the best indicator of on-field chemistry – and that evening’s dinner at a restaurant near the team base in Campoamor proved fruitful for off-field bonding, too.
According to the unwritten rules of footballing culture, when a player joins a new team, they must undergo the ritual humiliation of performing an ‘initiation song’ in front of their peers. Given a summer overhaul of the playing squad, and a new manager to boot, a good number of players were due to perform their initiation song in the private function room of a restaurant on the Costa Blanca.
I arrived slightly late, due to the apparent fact that it is nearly impossible to book a taxi on a Saturday afternoon in Spain. By which point, Dom Telford was already coming towards the end of his rendition of what I can only describe as an indecipherable R’n’B track.
Danny Mayor, Alex Palmer, and Callum McFadzean came and went, with Oasis a stand-out favourite amongst the playing staff. Joe Edwards blasted out two full verses of Sweet Caroline to great applause, before it was the turn of the first-year professionals.
Klaidi Lolos was certainly the most confident of the first-year professionals, which is probably no surprise to any of those who have witnessed him burst onto the scene during pre-season. Michael Peck came next - standing up and proudly announcing “I’m Mike, centre-half, from Cornwall”, before giving his karaoke best at Ed Sheeran’s ‘Thinking Out Loud.’ The only boo of the evening’s entertainment was reserved for Tom Purrington, upon announcing he was from Exeter. Despite this, he held his cool to perform Craig David’s ‘Seven Days’. As far as I am aware, Tom was the only player to perform a song from the year that he was born in.
Upon returning to the hotel, singing now fortunately subsided, the players were allotted some well-earned down-time, allowing them to rest and recover after an intensive week together. On Sunday, the hours in-between sessions allowed me to sit and chat with some of the players, getting to know a little bit more about them.
No matter the conversation, a couple of themes remained constant throughout. One - the players clearly understand the sheer size of Plymouth Argyle Football Club. And two - they cannot wait for the season to start.
That is probably something we all have in common.