I could never have imagined as we walked off the Hub on March 12th, the day before we were set to travel to Portsmouth, that we would not be back there again until August 3rd.
Then again nothing has felt normal these last five months. It’s the longest period I’ve gone without training as a team since I started playing football at under 9s. As professionals, we’ve done our best to maintain a level of fitness but they’ll all tell you that there is only so much you can do by yourself.
So I think we were all pleased to be back together last Monday as a team. It was different though. We had our temperatures taken as we drove into the car park and were told to stay in our cars until instructed otherwise. Naz, our kitman, then handed each player his own kit which they were to take home each day, wash, and return in the next day. As pampered footballers we’re not used to having to do this!
For the first week we were in what was known as Phase One. This meant all training had to be non contact, we trained in small groups and sessions were restricted to a maximum of 75 minutes.
I was pleased to hear this initially as we’d usually train twice a day in the first few weeks of pre season.
To make up for it the manager and his coaching staff have pushed us every day for each of those 75 minutes, to the point where I feel we’ve worked just as hard as if we had trained twice a day.
On Tuesday we went to Formby Point beach to run up the sand dunes. We’ve done this for the last four seasons and it doesn’t get any easier. It’s the hardest type of training I’ve ever done. The sand just gives away under your feet and you feel like you’re making no progress at all. Your thighs scream with every stride and when you eventually make it to the top you’re ready to throw up your breakfast…. And then the manager tells you you’ve got another three runs left!
The entire squad and coaching staff were tested on Friday morning. It certainly isn't pleasant but it is over quickly. As I write this we are still awaiting the results, but hopefully it’ll be good news and we’ll be able to move on to Phase 2.
It was disappointing to lose Clicker (Jordan Clark) in the off-season but it wasn’t a surprise. I felt he’d improved season on season since he arrived four years ago and was going to be attracting the attention of clubs in the Championship. He had a great understanding with Callum (Johnson) on our right hand side and that’ll be difficult to replace but I know the manager will be working on that.
There were two new faces this week in training- Cameron Burgess and Ryan Cassidy. Though we’re yet to get the balls out for small sided games, they’ve both worked very hard and look like they’ll fit in well with how the manager likes his players to perform.
We are all getting used to a new ‘normality’ – but we all can’t wait to be doing something familiar, playing League One games again in front of our fans.