This report is from the training camp which took place from 17th-19th March at Lilleshall National Sports Centre.

Friday 17th March 2017

After getting the nod to represent England at the 2017 World Cup in Kissimee, Florida, the boys we’re itching to get back training! With everyone working hard between camps to increase the hours in the chairs the standard was sure to be high.

We arrived on Friday afternoon ready for an afternoon training session. I think everyone would agree that the first session on a Friday isn’t normally the best quality but this time the boys seemed to arrive ready to go and keen to impress. The atmosphere of the group was a lot more relaxed and the banter was flowing. The coaches allowed us to work the ball for a couple of hours without any strict coaching or drills, we set up a 3 vs 3 as there were a couple of late arrivals and got the ball moving.

The hard work started after dinner, with a training session booked 7pm – 8:30pm it was obvious that we were going to be put through our paces this weekend. The session started as always with one of our “unique” warm up drills led by our team Physio, Chaz!  With the tempo set and the boys thinking we moved onto some transitional game related drills that challenged us to get the ball moving and create space. The quality of the passing was sharp and the session was as competitive as ever, which certainly set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday 18th March 2017

The alarm was set for 7am ready for a busy day of training. We headed down to breakfast for 7:59am to avoid a potential £1 fine for being late. The boys had voted on a list of squad rules and punctuality was high on the list. After a quick bite to eat we headed off down to the sports hall ready for a 9:15am warm up and tennis!

At our last camp the coaches set up with an individual challenge game (Tennis) that challenged us on all the technical and mental skills needed to be competitive in the sport. The drill quickly became a squad favourite and it really got competitive amongst the lads! With Chaz setting up a leader board that would be updated after each camp the boys had already been winding each other up on the WhatsApp group prior to the camp. After winning the last tournament myself, I was keen to get off to a good start to try to win back-to-back tournaments after giving it large on WhatsApp during the week.

After the first round of tennis was complete, the day got underway with some game related drills, working 2 vs 2 with 4 floaters on the outside of the zone. We were encouraged to make off the ball movements to pull the opposition players out of their shape and create space for our partner to pop up and receive the ball. The morning session finished off with a 3 vs 3 game related drill, with floaters on the wings, that could receive / pass the ball to the team in possession, creating an over load situation. Both teams were pulled apart at times with some great passing and movement, which led to a number of great attacking moments and goals.

We were back after lunch to slog out some set pieces to ensure we were all on the same page during the competition in Florida. The boys had spent an hour or two with the tactics boards the night before, discussing possible options ready to try out on the Saturday afternoon. After a few trial runs and some tactical tweaks we finalised two or three set plays for various positions and scenarios that we could review on the video footage at our evenings video analysis session. We finished the session with a 4 vs 4 game, which allowed us to test out some set plays in a match scenario.

Sunday 19th March 2017

The final day began with an 8:30am breakfast. The topic of conversation was based around the morning’s fixtures in the tennis and who would make the top 4 to advance to the Semi-Finals! Tennis had quickly become the game for individual bragging rights and a chance to get 1 up on the squad until the next camp.

John Bolding, Marcus Harrison and Matthew Francis were battling it out for the 3rd and 4th spot in the table; positions that would see them qualify for the knock out stages. With John and Marcus scheduled to play each other a win for either player would secure a spot in the Semi’s! After a tense 5 minute game it was Marcus who came out on top to finish 3rd in the table and set up a Semi Final against Edward Common, whilst Matt finished 4th setting up a rematch against myself (Chris Gordon) after last camps Semi Final loss.

The Semi Finals are always tense as the squad circle the courts and apply some extra pressure by jeering every point. With every shot scrutinized it’s important to get off to a good start and deflect the attention onto your opposing player. That’s something I certainly didn’t do and it was Matt who raced ahead meaning I was playing catch up from the get go! On the other court the tie seemed a lot closer with only one or two points between Ed and Marcus during the majority of the game. The 5 minutes came to an end and it was Ed and Matt who advanced through to the afternoons final.

After the mornings fun it was time for the hard work to continue! The session was based around match play, with the coaches observing from the sidelines and stepping in to make coaching points when necessary. The tempo was electric and the ball never stopped still! The boys were pinging passes around left right and centre pulling the opposition team apart and create numerous goal scoring opportunities.

After 4 or 5 ten-minute periods, the coaches pulled us in and praised the quality of both teams. Each individual’s hard work away from the training camps had paid dividends; the quality in the group was the best it’s ever been. As a squad I think we have Matt Francis to thank for that, his hard work between previous camps had become infectious and certainly gave the squad a wake up call to go that extra mile to help us achieve our goal.

We had a quick bite for lunch and got checked out of our rooms ready to depart Lilleshall and return home. The players and carers headed down to the sports hall for one last time for the last couple of hours of training. Unlike our other sessions, the Sunday afternoon is open to the parents / carers to watch for them to witness the progress we are making as a team and enjoy the football we are playing.

However before we could get on with the match play there was still a small matter of the tennis final to be decided! We spread out around centre court ready for the big battle; it was time for Edward the “Silent Assassin” to take on Matt “The Southerner” in the climax of the March 2017 Tennis championships! It was Matt who took an early lead with some great examples of two touch play but Ed kept his nerve and battled back to secure the bragging rights for the weekend.

The quality of the play continued through to the final session of the weekend. This time the coaches mixed the teams up to try out a few different combinations and see certain players in different positions. Again the passing from both teams was sharp and both teams looked to transition quickly from defend to attack. This time there was plenty of support from up on the balcony, as the parents applauded various spells of passing play.

After 4 ten minute spells the coaches called us in for one final debrief. Again the lads were praised for the quality on show but as players we were desperate to carry on. We pleaded with the coaches for one last 10-minute spell and eventually got our wish before finally having to pack up and return home. The good news is we don’t have long to wait for the next camp as we are back at Lilleshall on Friday 31st March for another weekends training.

Finally on behalf of the rest of the squad I’d like to thank everyone for their support since the final 8 was decided. We can’t wait to compete at the 2017 FIPFA World Cup and we go there with one aim, which is to win the tournament and bring the trophy home!