Training with Cotswool FC is an interesting experience. Certainly, the preparation for matches is a little lacklustre in terms of preparing us for the league games, and this is evidenced by our bottom-of-the-league status. Remember the Derby County team of 2007/08 who finished with 11 points from 38 Premier League games? I imagine they trained in a similar way. That’s not to say training isn’t enjoyable – it is, and that’s the whole point of playing for Cotswool. I think. It’s certainly not the success.
Firstly, the training pitches couldn’t be any more different from the ones we use for competitive action on a weekend. When Saturday comes, we wade across the pitch in pursuit of a ball which is wallowing in the mud like a pig in shit. However, the training facilities of our local college (aside from the luscious 3G pitches which we unfortunately avoid like the plague) involve well-worn sand Astros from the 1990’s. After years of being trampled by overweight, flat-footed, beer-bellied blokes, these pitches have been compressed and squashed to being almost unrecognisable from what I’ve come to know as artificial grass. The surface more closely resembles a student carpet than a sports pitch. These astroturf surfaces provide a perfectly flat surface which are great for practising Barcelona style tiki-taka football, but not so great for preparing for the Downs League. A more suitable simulation of an average Saturday playing surface would perhaps be a giant bouncy castle with goals at either end, half inflated. Covered in shit.
The training pitches are essentially one giant sand astro about 80m x 250m, which is then divided into five pitches – each around 80m x 50m – separated by large nets stretched along a 7ft-high wire. These nets prove to be pretty hazardous, especially when you accidently step on the bottom of it and it swallows you like a giant polyester Venus fly trap.
Corners are so often our undoing in league matches, so you would think that the sensible thing to do would be to practise some heading, marking and set piece tactics in training. Readers of previous blog entries will know that this isn’t Cotswool’s modus operandi. We don’t stand for such foresight and planning. What’s that you say – we’re conceding a lot of goals from corners? So be it. It’s nothing that can’t be solved using the three cornerstones of English football:
– “Get into ‘em”
– “Fuck ‘em up”
– “Give it a clout”
Then there’s the speed of the game during a wet training session. Nothing knocks a player’s confidence like a complete and utter inability to judge the speed and bounce of the ball. On several occasions it has bucketed down with rain during training, making judging the speed of passes completely impossible. On the plus side, however, you can shoot from just about anywhere and feel like Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (as in having a rocket-powered shot, not being a mental Dutchman). In fact, the speed of the rain-soaked pitch develops a very useful skill for the Downs League – I call it “hammer the ball into the ground and see where it goes”. This is particularly effective on Saturdays, where the pitches are more uneven than a teenager’s face. Because of this, a keeper in the Downs league experiences a Paul Robinson moment on average every 5 minutes.
As a result, I would argue that the main function of training is to help rebuild team camaraderie following what was inevitably another comprehensive defeat the weekend before, as well as keeping us out of the pubs for at least one night of the week. The opportunity to have a kick around with a smile on our faces midweek also encourages us to turn up the following Saturday – and so the cycle continues!