Argyle in Spain | Day two blog
Since working at Argyle and being around the players quite a bit during that time, one of the main differences between them and us mere mortals, is their incredible drive, fitness and work ethic.
Yes, they get paid to do it, yes, they have great coaches and people around them to help and yes, they have decent facilities, but I am always struck by their sheer mental drive to run, work and get better.
But even a year of being close to the team, watching them train, being with them when they eat, when they chill out, even after an entire season of that, I have been blown away by just one day out here in Spain.
I’ll take you back to 11am yesterday morning, Day one of the training camp. Charlie Rose and I take a leisurely stroll to the training pitches. It’s about a 1k walk through some residential streets. No hills or anything particularly challenging, but even at that time, it’s hot. High twenties.
We get to the ground and set up. A couple of minutes later, the players come hurtling into through the gates having jogged the short distance from the hotel. I know, not that impressive, they’ve run just over 1000 metres, but this is just the start.
Steven Schumacher gathers them together and sets the stall out for the day.
“We’ll do a bit of gym work to start and then we’ll be out on the pitches. We have two sessions planned, this morning will be with Elliot, it’ll be high intensity work, lots of running lots of pressing. Then this afternoon we’ll do a bit of technical stuff and work on shape.”
And off they go.
Half an hour in the gym, loosening up, stretching, getting ready, then to the pitches.
After a short warm up, they’re in.
Fast, short, high intensity games. They go full pelt at it, in small teams for 10 minutes.
Two vs Two with two small goals at either end and a coach to play one-twos with. The pace is fast, it’s intense but the quality is in incredible.
Finley Craske and Joe Edwards up against Ryan Hardie and Alfie Lewis. The ball is fed, Alfie takes it, drives at Fin, slips it to Hardie, a quick one-two with Mark Hughes and a slotted finish into the tiny net. Bang, the next four are up.
There isn’t a moments rest, by the time they’ve caught their breath, they are back in the ring again.
Constant chat from the side-lines, with the gaffer, Nance and Hughesy all offering encouragement and spurring the lads on, to keep going, dig deeper.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch these guys training from time to time throughout the season and, of course, have seen them play every week. But still, I get shocked by how quick they are, how fit they are. These guys are serious athletes, and they are putting in the work.
Another drill, but the same intensity. Passing, moving, pressing. It’s relentless.
I scurry away for 20 minutes to write up a story for the website. I find a quiet place to scribble down some words on the fact that our Sky Bet League One match with Port Vale has been moved to a Friday night.
Whilst I’m writing, I can hear the screams from the pitches.
“Keep working Jeps”, “Press, press, press”, “Go on Lawsy, close him.” The sounds of training.
When I finish, I put my laptop back into my bag and wander over to the side of the pitch. The lads have just finished their latest drill and are gathered together taking on some much-needed hydration. A large ice box, filled with chilled water is waiting for them as Elliot explains the final part of the morning session.
Now, having just seen the work the players have just put in during the first hour of the morning, I was kind of expecting it to be a little bit less intense to finish. How wrong was I?
Shuttle runs, in groups of three, for three sets.
From the corner flag to the halfway line and back, then to the opposite corner flag and back, then to the middle of the pitch and back. Three times.
The matador, Turner in the middle. He’s explained the task, he’s rolled his sleeves up so his training top looks like a vest. Shouting from the middle of the pitch, “Ready boys? Three. Two. One…” They’re off.
And they go hard. This isn’t just a gentle warm down, this is high intensity running.
I watch on in a slight mixture of horror and amazement, I cannot believe they are still going and still going so fast.
Joe has his top off at this stage and is leading his little group of three. Head looking straight ahead, eyes focussed.
“He’s a machine. Joe, he’s a machine.” I look round and see Panutche Camara sat in the chair behind. He’s done his work for the day and is now, like me, enjoying the show.
I have to agree, he is a machine. All the lads are.
After 20 minutes or there abouts, they’re done. Water is being handed out and Elliot is rounding the session off.
It’s just gone midday and the sun is beating down, the work the players have put in during that first session has been gruelling.
“You’ll thank us in the season lads, when we’re pushing for that result. That is what all of this is for.” The gaffer barks as he walks behind the players off the pitch and towards the changing rooms.
He’s right, of course he’s right. That is exactly what this is for.
Now, I know what you might be saying, ‘they’re professional footballers, of course they can run, of course they’re fit,’ and I get that. But still, watching first hand, how hard they work, how much effort they put in, how structured and driven they are, I just cannot help but be amazed.
I walk back to the hotel, slightly sweaty myself from being stood out in the sun when a terrifying thought hit me - ‘They’ve got to do this all over again this afternoon.’
These lads are gladiators.