La Manga Diary: Day Two

by Daniel Alston
@efc_danalston in La Manga, Spain.

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One thing was for sure as the sun rose on the south east coast of Spain on Tuesday morning - the Under-23s will have slept well.
Monday’s vigorous introduction to the Iberian Peninsula and its climate will have guaranteed tired legs.
Any lingering fatigue would be washed away by another 7.30am workout in the pool, however - and with that, the Young Blues were awake and raring to go again, once fuelled by a healthy breakfast.
Shuttled up to the pitches by kitman-turned-chauffeur Shaun Doran, a 10.30am start to the next session involved gentle limbering up as hanging clouds and a cool breeze kept the temperature equally friendly.


But as soon as markers were placed on the ground and the footballs came out, so did the sun and its baking glow. Even stood pitchside, sweating was unavoidable.
First on the agenda: passing and control - two groups of nine each working in a grid, playing punch passes, lofted balls and one-twos around positioned mannequins. Mostly one-touch, the accurate distribution ensured a neat and consistent flow of bodies moving across the turf.
Midfielder Liam Walsh was eased into this drill as he nears a return to full training after his fractured metatarsal kept him out of the World Cup success with England Under-20s. 
After spraying passes themselves, it was now time to be on the receiving end of expertly-delivered crosses from David Unsworth and Francis Jeffers on opposite sides. In pairs, the Blues ran, slalomed through poles before switching over with their runs to the near and far post to meet the ball - some floated, some whipped, some laced and some low along the ground. The coaches were keen to keep the lads alert, expecting the unexpected and always ready to pounce on rebounds. Every goal counted, as Doran kept score and added to the tally each group accumulated in a separate, similar drill with John Ebbrell upfield. Again, that need to be on the winning team was the undertone of the day.
The finishing itself was of the highest quality. From an observer’s perspective, standout performers in front of goal in this session were forward Antony Evans and, perhaps surprisingly, defender Matty Foulds - both ruthless with countless bullet headers and well-taken volleys, with the latter even successfully executing a scorpion kick. Spectacular finishes from Beni Baningime, Calum Dyson and Sambou were also of note. Our camera was rolling, as you can see from the video below!

You had to feel sorry for the goalkeepers in this scenario though. No defenders to help out and two attackers hitting the ball from point-blank range. Any saves would no doubt smart and there would be another cross coming in every 10 seconds. All of this after another physically-demanding session led by goalkeeping coach Andy Fairman, who insists his trio start training 30 minutes earlier than the outfielders. We’ll be spending time with Mateusz Hewelt, Louis Gray and Chris Renshaw later this week to gain more insight to their routines.
A 10-minute game between the two sides offered a chance for the bibs to overcome the small advantage the team in blue had surmounted - and for a team replicating what had been the focus moments earlier, any goal scored from a cross counted double. Another fast-paced battle ensued and the blues had the win in the bag when Dyson turned home a centre by new signing Boris Mathis.
And so, as with yesterday, the spoils went the way of the team in Everton colours. Mathis and Baningime kept up their winning habit, alongside Gethin Jones, Nathan Broadhead, Luke Garbutt, Anton Donkor, Dyson, Conor Grant and 17-year-old Alex Denny. The youngest of the tour squad, the England youth midfielder will have to do his initiation song one evening this week, as is tradition for a player’s first time away with the Under-23s. It’s all about picking the right tune!
With physio Joe Hinnigan using the next-door room, he was kept busy with post-training duties and after lunch, a revolving door of players entered for muscle rubs, massages and treatment on blisters.  


With the next session not until 5.30pm, the squad had ample free time to unwind. After an interview with evertontv, Bassala Sambou made clear his intention to sleep. Evans came for a chat and technical support as he tried to download his latest episode of Game of Thrones. Others could be heard listening to music and playing cards in the shaded balconies. That downtime was richly deserved.
There would be more shelter from the heat for the final part of the day, too, as the La Manga Club gym would host the third session, with lower body strength and conditioning the focus.
All in all, another day impressively chalked off and the Under-23s look well on track to hit the ground running when the new season gets under way.

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