After my patient mode in putting up with being in line for what was quite literally half a day yesterday, today was like the first day back at school. I had already covered Shrewsbury Town training but this was an important assignment in covering West Bromwich Albion training in California.
Boing Boing Baggys Baggys became Boing Boing Cali Cali.
Based north of the Hollywood Hills, West Bromwich Albion had arrived here yesterday afternoon. Their summer training camp was in a place called Oxnard at the Oxnard College near a place called Ventura as in Ace Ventura Pet Detective.
Anyone who has visions of lush green fields, facilities to marvel at and quite simply an environment which would rival anything back home – well this was it.
Thoughts of deep blue skies, the infamous Hollywood sign, the melodies of the Beach Boys and the Gold Rush up the road in San Francisco were all put on hold as today resembled Smethwick in Ventura in California.
Where was the sun?
At least the players were happy. Although it was a cool 72F it could have been a lot worse. Even dressed in black jeans and a black Simple Minds top myself, I was untroubled running around the pitch in finding fresh angles to photograph WBA Fitness Coach Matthew Green putting the players through their paces.
Apart from the obvious shuttle runs, Matt had the players ‘wear’ elastic bands around their legs to help condition their muscles.
All the players had state of the art GPS tracking devices imbedded into their WBA clothing. Like all footballers they hate running but love ball work.
The coaches had great delight in telling me that the players actually run almost twice as far during a training session when balls are used and they don’t complain one little bit! The data is analysed so that the coaches can monitor the progress of each player during the season.
Most footballers like cars, but for the vast majority of the time they were totally focussed on their training, however one could be forgiven for turning over their shoulder to marvel at some of the vehicles traveling on Simpson Drive adjacent to the College campus. I am not exactly a car junkie but only haters of cars would have been unimpressed at the deep sounding engines powering the jeeps and breeds of car that I am so unfamiliar with.
As always I ended up being chief ball boy when the players did shooting practise. The players were very relaxed and friendly as always including new signing and fellow Shrewsbury boy Billy Jones.
Manager Roy Hodgson allowed me to do pretty anything I wanted and the three hours documenting the training session went in no time.
Today was a big day for one reason alone.
Basically every single picture that we have done of West Bromwich Albion is no longer is usable. The club have signed a new shirt sponsorship deal and have joined forces with Adidas ditching Umbro. Therefore every single image coming out of the club HAS to be an Adidas branded picture.
Branding is important not only to the club but obviously the new club partner. It is my job to ensure there is enough material to use by the WBA media team.
During the day I met ex-Albion goalkeeper Graham Smith who is involved with Ventura County Fusion a newish football team and who will play WBA at the end of the week.
I had never met the man in my life before but after hearing stories of him saving shots from Kevin Keegan when he played at Anfield to what he is doing now we surprised each other in the amount of football people we both knew.
The people from County Fusion could not do enough for WBA. Americans would describe it as awesome. They all gave me hints and tips on my next road trip to San Jose tomorrow and warned me on the closure of one of the major highways.
They also plastered posters advertising their big game everywhere they could – even on the rubbish bins surrounding the soccer pitch!
After a few calls from back home – I was completely unaware of the time back home, I transmitted some back to my server for the WBA people to use on the official website.
My mobile office was in a far nicer surroundings as right on cue at the end of the training session, within five minutes the Californian deep blue skies and sunshine returned. Even walking back to the car I could feel the humidity rise – the Albion players had got off lightly.
WBA in town is big news. I will wait with much anticipation to see the local newspaper tomorrow. Before a mass edit watching more rubbish American TV, I explored around my new surrounding in my rental car and had a brief shop to buy some new footwear – its a year ago today since the FIFA World Cup Final in South Africa. I have been wearing my Crocs basically ever day since the day I purchased them in Cape Town. From Africa they have been to the Middle East, Asia, Europe and now North America for a second time.
The clothes here are cheap too… perhaps I will invest later on in the trip if I have time. I spent the rest of the day editing pictures, editing pictures and editing pictures.
Today seems like the first page in a long book. Today was quite easy. I called up the San Jose Earthquakes to establish if they had received any of my communication. A couple of weeks ago I would have had an argument with my English ways – knowing how the American brain now works, I got through to the main man in less than 10 seconds and sorted out a prime parking position and access into the stadium well before the 2 hour norm.
Tomorrow the fun starts!