Norwich City's players returned to England on Saturday after spending a week in Germany as part of their preparations for the 2017-18 season.
Following yesterday's blog about the opening days of the tour, we round off the second half of City's stay in Europe.
Wednesday was always going to be busy with two games to cover, both some distance away from base. A journey of around 100km took us to Oberhausen for the first of those, with the Under-23s in action.
Facilities were, as is often the case on tours, limited. Reporting on a game from a hill without power sockets or WiFi might seem as bad as it can get, but things went relatively smoothly as Matt Gill’s youngsters secured an excellent win in searing heat.
More problematic was the senior game later that night. Rushing through Germany in the middle of a mammoth storm to make the match was probably an indicator of what was to come – practically no internet whatsoever. We got by, just, but had to strip things back and couldn’t cover the game to the extent we had hoped to. That’s always frustrating, although can come with the territory for pre-season matches so days like that are useful for ironing things out ahead of the competitive games starting.
A slightly steadier day for everyone, albeit still with the hectic edge that pre-season brings. Once the players had completed their morning training session, they took part in what would prove to be a controversial Corner Kick Challenge… the eventual verdict hotly disputed by an aggrieved James Maddison.
After lunch we caught up with Jamal Lewis and Darren Huckerby in quick succession, discussing how pre-season has gone for the pair of them. The senior squad were given a rare afternoon off, but the pairings of Angus Gunn/Josh Murphy, Ivo Pinto/Nelson Oliveira and Steven Naismith/Russell Martin were kind enough to help us out with some extra fun content in their free time. You may have already seen what our Portugeezers got up to, but keep an eye out for the others in the near future.
They and others then gave their ‘support’ to members of non-playing staff across a range of departments who took to the training field for a game. It ultimately came to a premature end due to injury (get well soon, Riggers) but choosing to slot in at left-back behind a certain ex-City winger proved a shrewd move in conserving energy…
Much like Wednesday, Friday was a packed schedule with two games, which were in stark contrast to each other from a media point of view. The Under-23s' fixture took place at base, on a training field, meaning the game had to be covered from right by the touchline. This would prove to be particularly perilous in a full-blooded affair; with the young Canaries standing up to the challenge of facing a much more experienced team extremely well after what had been a tough week of intensive training.
The second match took us to the impressive Schüco Arena, to witness an even more impressive display from the Canaries’ first team. Facing a side further into their preparations for the new season in the form of Bundesliga II outfit DSC Arminia Bielefeld, City picked up a thoroughly deserved victory capped by a superb Nelson Oliveira goal – just hours after he’d come within inches of performing a decapitation with a strike which whistled millimetres past us while filming training…
Just because they had played the night before and had an afternoon flight, that didn’t mean a day off for the players who reported to training at 10am. The session focused on regeneration, which is no less important than the work that goes in before a game. It’s not a case of everybody packing away at 5pm on a Saturday, there’s more that goes on behind-the-scenes than is possible to imagine with the aim of maximising performance.
Harry Toffolo took control of our Instagram stories for the journey home, which featured a slightly depleted party for a variety of reasons. Mario Vrancic, for example, had to go and pick up his car before driving back so he’s able to get around in England! After a very successful week in Germany the focus will quickly be back on work for everyone, with Tuesday night’s trip to Charlton Athletic looming large on the horizon…