It’s January, and the Blues are sitting pretty in the top BUCS Midlands Division with games in hand on their rivals. Our annual tour to Spain serves to sweep away the Christmas cobwebs and re-focus minds and bodies for our return to BUCS football. The Club has a huge number of League fixtures left, two League titles to challenge for, a BUCS Trophy Quarter-Final in the diary, and both Varsity matches on the decreasingly distant horizon.
This year, CUAFC took 19 players, physio Rich Luddington and Old Boy-turned-top-Coach Michael Jolley to the brand new Pinatar Arena Football Center, before making the pilgrimage to La Manga Club for the remainder of the week. The 2013 trip gave the squad the opportunity to prove themselves ahead of a gruelling Lent, and train alongside the likes of Borussia Dortmund, KV Malinas, and Germany U16s – an unparalleled chance to see world-class players and youngsters in action. The Club packed more than 18 hours of training, two testing fixtures against Spanish opposition, and the obligatory social into just 7 days. I hope this brief diary gives you some insight into tour with CUAFC.
Day 1 – Sunday 6th:
After arriving late on the 5th, it’s straight to the training pitch. Breakfast is polished off before an excited jog to Pinatar Arena for a ballwork-heavy session, some possession games, and 6-a-side to end for sharpness. The squad sets their sights on the 5,000 seater arena and three pristine pitches before a superb carb-fest lunch. Later on at 3pm, session two begins. It’s more attacking – we run through some crossing and shooting drills before a 7-a-side game. Today’s focus is on getting back up to speed and ready to impress Michael, who arrives tomorrow. To recover, most of the boys brave an ice bath before tucking in to some fresh grilled fish, meat and pasta at Hotel Lodomar and tackling the Secretary’s footy trivia quiz. Bed.
Day 2 – Monday 7th:
Former CUAFC Vice-Captain and FA Elite Coach Michael Jolley arrives to drill some tactical nous into the squad and introduce some exciting new ideas. The squad is jumping, training goes up a notch and everyone’s learning fast. Our first game is tomorrow so the second session of the day is light and tactics-based. This time, the ice bath is compulsory and everyone manages 6 minutes in the ice-cold pool before dinner.
Day 3 – Tuesday 8th:
After a light morning session to finalise our gameplan, CUAFC take on Pinatar CF – a top regional side based at the football centre. Rusty, the boys struggle to get into the game against their technically-excellent and ball-hugging opponents. CUAFC go two down after 55 minutes, but perform strongly in the second half in front of a 100-strong crowd. Totten pulls one back on the volley but we go down 2-1 and escape Pinatar Arena by coach to the more familiar surroundings of La Manga Club. Debrief done, it’s team Italian and social time; ‘keeper Fergus Kent takes the plaudits with a crowd-pleasing rendition of Call Me Maybe.
Day 4 – Wednesday 9th:
What hangover? 20% attendance at the voluntary gym session, after which the boys stock up with food for the coming days and head to Dortmund training to watch Götze & Co. up close. At 3pm, Coach Jolley takes a fun training session to clear heads, and the boys retire to the pool and spa to complete the recovery.
Day 5 – Thursday 10th:
Back to the hard work today with four hours of training. The morning session is demanding both mentally and physically, but fantastic fun, with a counter-attacking game a big highlight. Later on, we return to Pitch F where ‘Jolls’ works on playing out from the back with the defence. The strikers and midfield split off to test Kent and Coburn with their finishing skills, before everyone watches Germany U16s take on Hercules CF and heads to the pool for compulsory “aquaerobics” with centre-back Mikey Smith. In the evening it’s heads on for the game, but where is the Sabbatical Officer’s passport?
Day 6 – Friday 11th:
A light morning prepares us for Deportiva Minera, representing the third tier of Spanish football. CUAFC find themselves up against exceptional opposition, but the boys battle hard to keep the deficit to one goal at half-time. In the second half, we find ourselves in the ascendency. Passes start zipping in to Light Blues, but it takes an archetypal English goal to draw level – Falcons’ Captain Hutton with a header after Sherif hits the bar from 2 yards – before Ben Ryan nods the Blues ahead with 10 minutes left from a free-kick. The boys use their increasing tactical nous to stifle the Spaniards, who have a shocking offside call to thank for denying the Blues more, and the team see the remaining 10 minutes out to take a fantastic 2-1 win. But tour’s not quite over. A team meal and awards ceremony round off the formalities, Danny’s passport makes a late reappearance, and the boys head out to Cartagena for a highly ‘informal’ but well-deserved night on the town.
Ross Broadway – CUAFC Captain