Pep Lijnders diary: Day 17, rondos package and Trent against Curtis in table tennis

Pepijn Lijnders filed his latest entry in his Austria training camp journal series, detailing the latest training ground drills – including forfeit rondos – and lifting the lid of the table tennis competition in the game room for players.

Since my last diary entry we have had two days of positive training in the beautiful surroundings of Tyrol.

Tuesday was a “relay” session. We used it to recover the spirit and activate the body with a 4v4 tournament, but first we did rondos where the boys had to react to my whistle.

A whistle, move to the left; twice, move to the right. The last two arriving on the “new” square had to start in the middle.

We let Virgil’s group go the longest way each time. Jürgen kept whispering in my ear, ‘Do it again, Pep, let Virgil run!’ It wasn’t until then that Jürgen and I laughed so hard that they realized they were the only team that had to constantly sprint 40 meters instead of 10!

At the signal “Go! They had to keep the ball in the air and maneuver through a few obstacles, with the one rule that they all had to be involved.

The winning team, after calls from Jürgen and Millie, had “forgotten” Kostas. The rules were that everyone had to touch the ball before completing the exercise.

Nowadays we have VAR in football so we checked with our analyst later and at the end of the session Jürgen confronted the ‘winning’ team with this news. Virgil has already started the push-ups while the boss was talking, haha! The players know exactly when it’s right or wrong, especially the big guns, and this time they didn’t get away with it. Sadio made sure of that.

Naby is also not doing well because he was standing behind the coaches and trying to avoid the forfeit.

Then we played the 4v4 games; little space and little time, with two groups of 12 forming three teams of four. The Yellows were 3-1 behind after eight games, but in the ninth and final game, they cut it all down to 4-3. These reversals only occur when it comes to “finals”. Those on the outside, the other eight players not involved, were screaming and helping those playing. This environment is what we were looking for – top, top, top. Nat also wanted me to mention this comeback in this entry!

After that, we knew they would be ready for anything in Wednesday’s sessions; ready to take information, to focus on organization and the right distances. It’s a tactical day, a real MD-1 day – we prepare them for battle, haha! Tactical insight with the highest intensity.

During the season we also do a strategic review, but now we only focus on ourselves. Mark, one of our analysts, has created three / four short videos showing our offensive principles, for example.

We divided this MD-1 day into two sessions – one early in the morning and the other in the late afternoon. This is the real advantage in the preseason. The two teams were really tied, it has always been the case in our good stages. The number of times after the MD-1 session, we said to ourselves, “So happy not to play against the yellow team tomorrow”. This is high performance sport at its best – the whole team is fighting for a position, copes well with the emotion of not playing.

On Tuesday evening, Ray and Mona hosted a team dinner just steps from the hotel; it was in a hut with long tables overlooking the mountains. The group grows together, at night there is a great atmosphere in the playroom and in the medical room.

In terms of table tennis, Mo, Leighton, Virgil and Joe are the best players I think. Curtis is his day too – his matches against Trent are always interesting and very funny. Curt won the last game between them; Rhys says Trent should wear a GPS when he plays because Curtis made him run like crazy!

The boys also played online chess against each other. It’s such a great game, it creates anticipation and consequences. The music plays loud, the young players compete at darts or table tennis, the seniors get treatment and joke with the staff and with each other. Robbo, Virg, Millie and Kostas are certainly the loudest in there! It’s a place really for players and I like the atmosphere that the players and the staff create together in it.

We have immense respect for our medical staff, who are with the boys all day to give them everything they need. For example, Paul Small, our masseuse, has been with our club for 20 years. It still deserves a medal, but we many times underestimate the hard work that high-level massages take.

And respect for all the staff who stay with us the entire four weeks. Together, strong. So far so good, but we all miss our families after almost three weeks away from home. However, we have to keep the spirit and energy high.

Philip Holliday, our travel manager, is someone who is constantly monitoring travel changes due to the pandemic. It’s always great to have him around, that means we’re on special occasions, haha! The more we see it, the better our season!

Together with Ray, he arranged for all players to come from their holiday destination directly to Austria. That was our plan – to create a bubble for all the time we are away. It’s easier said than done with all the COVID regulations.

He carefully selects the hotels we go to; we have learned that we prefer to be with a hotel that really wants us rather than maybe a hotel with more quality. Because with the right people you get the best treatment so we really can’t complain about all the conditions they create for us. These people make our life much easier. There is a great saying that by being true to yourself you are going to be true to everyone. This is the family environment that we are trying to create, everyone can be themselves. Honesty and humility throughout.

LFCTV GO: The latest edition of Inside Training from Austria

We had a good, hard session on Wednesday morning. The highlight was the pressing of the yellow team. Leighton also played a brilliant deep ball to Diogo, sending him head-to-head. Vitor also took a small group for extra work and Jake Cain scored seven goals, some of them world.

Mateusz resumes training with us tomorrow. He had some problems with his knee but it’s great that he’s back with us on the pitch. These boys only want one thing: to play and to play. This is the only characteristic they must never lose: the passion for the ball, the game and our club.

Tomorrow is our next game against Hertha BSC and we expect another good test and training for the boys. Hope you will watch us on LFCTV GO.

Until next time,

Pep Lijnders was talking to James Carroll

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