Away Day Football Match Preparation for a Professional Football Team. This was the typical routine for most of the clubs I played for, although I am quite sure it is a similar schedule for other Football Clubs.
For long trips involving more than 2 hours of driving we would always depart the day before the game.
Friday Training Session
Friday morning would be a training session at the ground, starting at 10.30am. Friday training sessions would always be a bit different to a regular training session. More emphasis would be placed upon the tactics for the game the next day.
Set pieces. Corners and Free Kicks. Both Attacking and defending. We would spend from ½ hour to 1 hour analysing the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses. Normally with no opposition, the first team squad would go through the corners and free kicks, standing in the required positions. Boring stuff really but important information. You did not want to be the player who had not listened or understood his job (especially defensively) and was caught out on a Saturday, leading to a goal.
After a 2 hour training session, the coach would be loaded up with the kit ready to depart soon after. Lunch would be laid on at the training ground, although some players would sneak off to the greasy spoon to get their last unhealthy meal before coming under the Big brother control of the club nutritional requirements. i.e. the club would be able to monitor what you eat once you got on the Team coach.
A quick stop at the Newsagents to get the newspapers, magazines, crisps and chocolate (club cannot monitor bags of crisps in the kit bag) and we would be set to go. Mostly Tabloid newspaper nonsense on the team bus plus FHM, Loaded, Football Boot monthly etc.
The whole first team squad would be on the coach, typically numbering 20 players. Plus one of the senior management staff, club physio, kit man and driver.
Journeys would be filled with card games, DVDS on laptops or portable players and sleeping. Arrive at the hotel, normally located within 20 minutes of the away team Football stadium. We would be paired together, 2 to a room. Once arrived and given our room numbers, players would walk around, stretching their legs, getting the long Coach ride out of their system.
Hardcore Football Fans
Hardcore Football fans would be waiting at the hotel entrance. I am not quite sure how these fans would find out where the team was staying but there would always be a group of the most dedicated autograph hunters standing in the hotel reception. No players ever mind signing autographs but these fans are a special breed, testing the patience of even the kindest players. They would carry boxes of magazines, newspaper cuttings and articles. For the more popular players it would not be unknown for them to sign 40-50 autographs for one person.
Football players hanging out in a Hotel
By the time we arrived at the Hotel it would be late afternoon, so Dinner would be next on the Agenda. Most of the time we would be given a room away from the main restaurant. Probably to keep the players away from the regular diners and stop them from bothering people. Meals would be pasta, chicken, steak, rice and vegetables all served in a buffet style for the team. It was standard fare at most hotels. If the manager was in a good mood he would let us have an ice cream. Yippeeee. Sometimes felt like we were in the army with all the rules and regulations.
After dinner almost all the players would head off to their rooms. Some would play cards until late at night. I heard an anonymous Premiership footballer on BBC Radio Five Live, recently talking about the addictions of young players, who would travel with their laptops, and hook up to the Internet and gamble until the early hours of the morning. This does not surprise me at all. The player said that after finishing gambling they would just surf the Internet looking for porn. Sometimes not getting to sleep until 4 or 5am.
I also knew players who would have a different girl in different parts of the country. A convenient mistress to spend the night with before the game. Although I am not going to name names for fear of being sued.
Other players would bring a playstation, hook it up to the Hotel TV and have a little tournament with team-members. Every player has his own way of “killing time” the night before the game.
Match Day Morning
Next morning would be up for Breakfast, again monitored by the club. Some managers are stricter than others but normally it would be a hearty breakfast, fit for a king. Then maybe a walk with the team to stretch off, or even a very light training session. (I used to hate that. Training on the morning of the game).
The rest of the morning was free, usually hanging out in the room watching football. We would then have lunch followed by a team meeting to re-emphasize the points from the training session the day before and also to announce the team.
Although everyone would already have a good idea of the team due to the training session on Friday, it was normally re-announced. Sometimes players would be sick or carrying an injury and did not pass their fitness test on the morning of the game.
We would get to the ground about 1 ½ hours before kick off. Into the dressing room, walk the pitch, savour the atmosphere. Then get changed into the Match Kit 1 hour before kick off, starting the pre match warm up 30 minutes before the game. One final team meeting before hyping ourselves up ready to take the field.