You know the expression, “things will look better in the morning,”? Well, they did! I slept all right, the shower was nice and you start to feel your way in to the whole adventure.
Breakfast was communal so we got to see Spirou Charleroi and what appears to be a very fit, big and strong line-up and for me a chance to say hello to Belgian International Alex Hervelle who did look a bit confused when I walked up to him and said, “hello Alex” and shook his hand!
I explained I’d seen him play for Real Madrid a few years ago in Spain’s Copa Del Rey and he understood. What occurred to me during the day when I had various conversations with some of our opposition is that “foreigners” put us to shame and English is very much the international language.
Back to breakfast and surprisingly enough being on the continent it was pretty much continental! It did serve its purpose and we were soon back in our rooms awaiting first practice which was scheduled for 11:30am.
Just a little word on our location now that it was light and sunny. Beautiful little village in the middle of nowhere it appears with a very rustic and country feel about it. Definitely one of those sleepy little not much happens type of places but dominated by a church, aren’t they all, it looks really nice.
In truth this was a pretty routine almost uninteresting type of day. That is if you can call watching your new team train together for the first time. No reveals here but there might be some surprises in store for you all.
All the guys looked fit, lean and ready and once they got their legs going it was an excellent session. Coach Mac even had time to run a few new plays that may or may not get an outing on Friday. Still, that’s what this trip is all about, bonding, learning, getting battle-ready and growing together.
There was definite evidence of all that in the first session which bodes well and certainly the guys looked motivated and ready to go especially considering it was the first time they’d all stepped on the same court together.
I have to say that the gym we’re training in is nice. Just over two years old and still looking fresh and clean. Definitely a good training venue and with a nice feel to it. Plenty of pull out seating too and I think it’ll look good on match night.
Spirou were training before us and whilst we didn’t see them train they did, like I said earlier, appear to be a big set of bodies matching experience and youth and will probably be a handful on Friday. Nice bunch of guys too from what we saw and heard and they lent us their basketballs too.
After training it was lunch consisting of chicken and various other healthy elements and the staff being extremely pleasant and helpful. In fact, as good a time as any to mention that we’re being looked after really well and they are changing and adapting to our needs really well. Very accommodating too.
Fed and watered there was quite a bit of free time to kill before second practice. Eric went off on a recce to see what the village was all about, I completed the blog and got caught up on e-mails and Coach Mac got his paperwork done for the day. Nice leisurely pace, all of it.
By the way we’ve been reliably informed that there will be live stats via FIBA so y’all might want to follow the action on there and we’ll share a link on social media so you can access it.
Eric returned to base camp and advised that there was more in the village than we’d thought. Thursday afternoon may well be used for exploring more.
So, to second practice and again another hard and well-drilled session. The guys got to go up and down and play 5 on 5 which was entertaining, competitive and played in the right combative spirit. I’m liking what I’m seeing and I’m liking the early plans.
What you do have to remember though is that yesterday was the first day it was all thrown together. There will be a two more sessions tomorrow (today!) and a session on Friday in the morning before the game. Not a lot of time to fully prepare for a game against a Champions League outfit that has been together over a week.
But, that’s what we need, tough and challenging circumstances to see who’s ready and who’s going to respond in the right way.
Dinner was nice, for me, pork with a peppercorn sauce, potatoes and sweetcorn and even a pie afterwards which raised a lot of debate as to what it was. The consensus of opinion was that it was apricot which was a surprise to me as I liked it and don’t like apricots!
Once again, fed and watered it was time for some of us to try the local hospitality and do our bit for the entente cordiale or however you spell it. A stroll up to the square showed that despite it’s quiet sleepiness this village does have life and the locals seemed cordial and even amused to see “tourists” in their midst.
Coach Mac joined us and courtesy of Eric’s supaphone we watched Rafa’s men turn in yet another abject performance to crash out of The Carabao Cup. Fantastic away support once again but these desperate Toon fans seeking glory perhaps need to seek glory in other sports?
Have to say that it’s very convivial been able to sit outside a local café putting the worlds to right with your mates in a laid-back atmosphere. Who knows we might even do it all again tomorrow (today). A short stroll back and it was time to call it a good night and do you know what? It was.