I always knew that on a day like this I would be nervous but this was a whole new level. You know when your mind starts questioning the little things… creating evil little deposits of self-doubt.
There was one thing I knew for sure… I wouldn’t have come all this way if I wasn’t cut out for the challenge.
I arrived early to the training grounds, way before I need to be there. Not only did it prevent any “I’m going to be late” anxiety but it also gave me the opportunity to meet the coaching staff, first team and reserve players as they arrived one-by-one.
These facilities were like nothing I had ever seen before: eight training pitches, high-tech gym facilities, change rooms and medical facilities on another level, and a whole café with daily menus of athlete-specific foods. I was like a kid in a candy shop.
Every morning, each player had a set time that they had to be in the café ready for a buffet of breakfast foods and even a custom juice making station. After breakfast where I met all of the players I headed into the change rooms to get ready for business. My first training was with the reserve team: a combination of circuit running and small-sided games. We had two sessions a day that varied between weight based gym sessions and on the field.
I often doubt my ability, forget what I am cable of, but I knew I had to dig deep this week. Straight off the bat I realised that this was going to be as much of a mental fight as it would be physical. Each night I ate well, spoke to people I love back home and went to bed early to recharge. I thought I had felt fatigue before but I was wrong.
After an intense week of running, it was time for the first game of the pre-season. The coach told me the night before that I would be in the starting 11! It was a great feeling knowing that all of my hard work that week had been recognised. I was read to prove what I could do in a match.
It was a 40-minute drive on the team bus to our match against Wealdstone FC. I knew I was going head-to-head with another trialist so I was stoked that I played the first 60 minutes ahead of him. The game ended in a 1 all draw. It was more physical than any football I had ever played before and I was so happy with how I played.
After the game the coach pulled me aside. My stomach sunk, I had no idea what he was going to say.
The conservation lasted less than 20-seconds. I’ll never forget what he said, “I’ll see you Monday for week two of pre-season”. That was it. I was invited back for another week at Watford FC.
Part 3 Coming Soon.