It’s on days like these that it pays to have a big belly and dodgy knees and be closer to your bus pass than your 18th birthday.
Us media chaps – and one lady – gathered in a remote field in North Yorkshire like a crowd parking their backsides down in the colliseum to watch some poor Christian being fed to the lions.
We waited expectantly for the two lorries of ‘Christians’, Hartlepool United’s footballers, to arrive before the lions, in this case the RA Physical Training Corps, got tore into them.
The players had barely set foot on the grass when the cry went out. “Grenade!” screeched the PT instructor and the Pools squad hit the deck.
Us in the colliseum crowd laughed. But for the Army and Pools this was serious business.
Twelve months after Pools enjoyed the six-star splendour of La Cala Resort in sunny Spain, this was a totally different experience.
Two players, who will remain nameless, crawled over the finishing line.
Yes, Pools did work on the Costa Del Sunshine last year, of course they did, but this was graft with a capital G. G for grenade.
“Grenade” yelled the PT man and Pools hit the deck again. They were getting thrown about before the assault course test had even begun.
A trip to a warm and humid Catterick was not a punishment for Pools, but a deliberate ploy by Ronnie Moore following a plan set out by head physio Ian Gallagher.
It was not about exercise, exercise and more exercise. Naturally, the fitness is part of it, but Moore and Gallagher wanted their players tested mentally and physically to see who is up for the fight.
On the evidence of yesterday, things are looking good.
Two players, who will remain nameless, crawled over the finishing line, literally, but their team-mates were all there shouting encouragement.
“The players were in Spain this time last year and you saw what happened and where we ended up [in the league],” said Moore.
“We weren’t going to be spoiling them or that type of thing this time.
“I know some clubs do it but I don’t think you can pre-season in Spain.
“I don’t think it’s too bad if you are playing a couple of games but not when there are no matches.
“Me and Buster spoke about it and we chose to come here – his pal from the Army, Paul Tucker, is leading the training and it’s a great decision I think.
“This is getting us togetherness, this is character building, the lads have been fantastic.
“We have eight new players, hopefully another one to come, andits’s about getting them to bond, to gel, and this was the ideal way to do it.
“We’re in barracks at Dishforth and it’s great.
“I laughed when a player said he had ‘no curtains’.
“This is the real world, footballers are spoiled to hell, so that was one of the reasons we brought them here.
“They’ve got fit, bonded and conquered a few fears.
“It’s been funny to watch them, every now and again the army lads shout ‘grenade’ and they have to hit the deck and crawl along the floor.
“They had a tremendous week last week, they woked really hard, and so far here they have been fantastic.”
Moore denied it was old school thinking and having watched yestray’s exertions, it looks like commonsense.
“I did this, along time ago!” he smiled. “ When I was [a player] at Tranmere, we went to Aldershot,” hesmiled.
“This is not old school, look at the young lads, doing the PT work. This is a great and modern army we’re working with
“It’s bonding and character-building we’re after, not just fitness, it’s been brilliant.”
All the new boys were here with the exception of newest signing Kudus Oyenuga and Moore believes having everyone away with them in North Yorkshire was vital to building that team spirit.
“We did a lot of work, Sam, Russ and myself, early in the summer, getting in the players as soon as we could,” said the manager.
“It was a good bit of business by us.
“We were lucky we had five just after last season had finished which was tremendously important for us to get them early.”
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