From The Training Ground
At the Deepdale Re-Visited event evening - organised by Mick Page - showing the trouncing of Preston by Blackpool on the big screen, one of the star prizes in the raffle was to attend a training session with the team at Squires Gate.
I initially didn't win the draw but the man who did (Sir Harry Thompson) promptly returned it, thinking it sounded too much like hard work especially for a 50 something.
hereupon my dear husband-to-be bought the session for me as pre-wedding present. Obviously he hadn't heard that 'Diamonds are a girls best friend'!!
Actually incredibly chuffed with the surprise I turned up on April 22nd 2008, somewhat relieved to bump in to Lewis Edge, whom I knew from previous quiz nights where he had been our celeb on our table.
He took me to meet "The Gaffer", who ever the gentleman hid his amusement well when I informed him that no I didn't have any kids with me to join in the training and yes it was just me, a 40+ year old woman on her own.
I'm sure I heard a sigh of relief when I told him that; 'No ,I definitely wouldn't be wanting to attempt any sort of exercises with the players', as I was more than happy just to watch the great team at work!
What a great team they are too. After the initial warm-ups; running, bobbing and weaving (not sure that`s the technical term) through cones, step overs etc, the players split in to 4 teams and then played on adjacent pitches. I came into my own as a lone supporter/ball person and like to think that I contributed in a small way by retrieving the balls for them. It also gave me an excuse to warm up, because - sunny as it was - I'm sure the wind blows straight in from the Arctic on to the training ground!
After swapping a number of times so that each team played each other, training against the 'keeper was next.
Pairs of players passing passing to each other then shooting, individual attempts after dribbling around cones, or having the ball thrown in and then volleying the ball - hopefully in to the net.
As this was a time when waiting around for your turn was involved, the banter level was at its highest - with personal cracks and insults being traded all in good spirit!
Danny Coid was at the receiving end of some of the jibes concerning his weight, likewise Big Ben took great delight in a display of arm flapping when scoring after being ridiculed for missing a number of shots, but the most spectacular miss went to Stephen McPhee who - when faced with an easy tap-in - volleyed the ball skywards, barely missing a helicopter landing at Blackpool International Airport!
Amidst the whistles and clapping, came a cry of; "That`s what we paid all that money for!!". A little harsh, particularly as it had come from Larry - but all said with tongue firmly in cheek.
The whole morning just served to confirm what I already knew, that we have a great team with fantastic spirit - and that goes a long way especially when things don`t always go to plan, i.e. the following week away at Plymouth.
The management are well respected by the players and by each other - and the whole experience was very positive.
I was made to feel very welcome and Simon took a real interest in what I thought and was quite impressed when I said I had only missed one match home and away all season. Thommo took time to chat and Tony Parkes had coffee with me, telling different stories about the whole set up at the club.
The players had a great rapport and that shows, the biggest joker and leg puller was Michael Flynn (Filling in for Shaun Barker who wasn't there), while the hardest trainer by far was Jacko who started before everyone else and continued long after everyone else had finished.
There was one player, however, who was noticeably on the outskirts and who didn't train with the same enthusiasm - even asking me what time it was so he knew when he could finish. Well...I wont say who it was, but let's just hope he trains at Norwich with a little more gusto!
I came away a little better informed about the work that goes on behind the scenes. Work that sometimes must be repetitive and boring, in conditions that must be fairly miserable - especially in Winter - and with facilities that everyone will agree are tired and in need of modernisation.
Perhaps more people should get the opportunity to see it as I enjoyed it enormously.
UP THE POOL!!!!!!!