After a few joke conversations with the team gaffer, Keith Gibson, it was arranged that I be given the opportunity to train with the BAJFC squad on training night and turn it into a story for our club’s website. I wanted to get a feel of what it’s like, to witness how fast and intense I heard it was, and just generally experience a training session with the lads. What had I just let myself into, god only knows, but I knew from the minute it was agreed with Keith that I was going to give it my all… Below is a few words of my first insight of training with the lads…
I arrive at 6pm, nervous, worried but happy to be there, thirty minutes before the squad arrive, and I’m first met by the goalkeeping coach Mark Murray in the changing rooms. We briefly talk about what I’m to expect, he reassures me and says it’ll be fine…was he just being nice or secretly lying through his teeth, time would tell…
The gaffer is next to arrive and we briefly talk about what’s going to happen in the next 90 minutes. He talks of sprints, feet agility and close group sessions, I thought I was there for keepy ups and pens! He gives me my training kit, which happens to be blue, the same as the managements colours, I feel honoured. The lads then start trooping in. A few laughs are shared with Paul Lunan, Ryan Suttie about me being there. Paul Mclellan arrives with a spare pair of boots for me, they fit and I’m changed and ready to go. The joker arrives, Bryan Duell, he rips into me but in kind respect, he gets it back. We troop out onto the Gussie Park Astro pitch…it’s freezing.
The two goalkeepers, Iain Ross and John Sinclair, are taken to one side for their own session with goalkeeping coach Mark Murray, and later join us all towards the end.
Ray Farningham, our assistant manager get’s us going, eventually joined by coach Tony McAulay. We start off with some slow jogging around half the pitch. I’m paired with Stuart McConnachie. We do several circuits around. The lads have some laughs, they talk, make jokes as they jog along chatting to one and other. I’m about four from the front, feeling okay at this point. There are fifteen of us aged between late teens and early thirties, with the gaffer, assistant gaffer and coach watching closely.
Now onto what I can only describe as box touch football. A small square of about 10 by 10 metres or so. There are eight of us, with two in the middle trying to get the ball. It’s fast, tricky and constant go. It goes down to one touch passing, if you fail you become a chaser, everyone has a shot at that, even me. This is where it becomes hard, to the point I become dizzy with all the constant direction changing due to the boys being so quick but I hold my own. After ten minutes we break for water.
Next up jumping hurdles and passing the ball and sprinting. I manage that fine, very enjoyable and fast. I’m paired with Jamie McCunnie, Ryan Suttie, Kevin Buchan, Bryan Duell and Stuart McConnachie. I hold my own in this move. Jinky(Ray Farningham) is always shouting positives to the lads, myself included. You hear the passion in his voice every time he makes a pass of the ball, the man is a legend. He’s passing to us, praising me as I go. I’m feeling the pace at this point but loving every minute as I run past and pass back to him.
The next session is a strange one, all five team-mates holding hands in a circle, keeping the ball in the middle whilst running 20/30 metres against the other two teams. We win once or twice. The screams of laughter and anger are heard by all…but to hold hands with your fellow players…juries out on that one! I’m really starting to feel it now and sit out the next session. This is where the lads are sharp, precise with their passing and running routine with Jinky in the middle getting them going. The gaffer watches and offers his guidance as the lads sprint on.
During my break, I feel my back hurting, like it’s always done. But I’ve not played 5-a-side’s for 12 months let alone carried out a full training session with a quality team so I expected the aches and pains to come. Then all the lads take their last water break and I hear the words I’ve been waiting to hear… We are away to play some five-a-side football across half the pitch.
I’m teamed up with Bastien Wibaut, the legendary Jamie Winter, Ryan Suttie, Kevin Buchan and goalkeeper John Sinclair. It’s non-stop back and forward facing up to guys like Jay Smart, Barry Myles and Paul Lunan. I’m praised for passes by Jamie McCunnie and Jake Mair, I get pressed and hunted down, even Derryn Kesson flies past me, he’s a very tricky player. Both sides score several goals, myself included, my back is facing the goal 15yrds out, the ball fizzes towards my left foot, I turn and chip the ball in one fine move over Iain Ross in the goal and score a cracker. The lads all cheer as I wheel away celebrating on my own, the lads, well they just cracked on playing! We play a few games between the three teams of five. It was hard keeping up but I gave it my best.
Then the final whistle! Thank christ that was over. The gaffer calls everyone in and briefs them the squad of the upcoming game on Saturday. I take a few steps back and let them speak. Jinky then inputs his thoughts, telling the guys to play like they know they can and they’ll do well. The gaffer finishes the night by thanking and praising me for my efforts. I get a few well-done comments, my training is done, I’m still alive. We all head off to the changing rooms then home.
My overall thoughts… Great time, great experience, great players to play alongside. The effort was there for all to see, the squad is a good bunch of lads, led by a great management team, but my days of keeping up with these lads are long gone…can’t see me signing for the club anytime soon. Website admin it is for me.