Chris gives his pre-season thoughts
Welsh international Chris Gunter is the Royals' roving reporter for pre-season 2014 - and he has penned his first blog of the summer, as the Royals' training began in earnest ahead of the new campaign. View more behind the scenes action here on Reading FC Player.
Hello everyone, I hope you’ve all had a good summer so far and enjoyed a few weeks without the highs and lows that a football season usually brings! Make the most of it, because it won’t be long before we're starting another long season - beginning with Wigan away. Recently the media team asked me if I would do them a favour and start a blog to keep you all updated on the happenings throughout pre season, so here goes....
Over the summer the date of June 30th was always in our heads as the day of the dreaded VO2 max test, as I’m sure you’ve seen over the last week with the pictures and videos - although I’m sure the lads would agree they do not tell half the story of the pain we all felt! Hope, Nick Blackman, Guths and myself were first up at 9am. I have done the test before so made sure I arrived first to Southampton just to get it over and done with! As soon as we walked through the door nutritionist Mike Naylor was waiting for us to take our body fat, Harvo (Nick Harvey) was in a different room sorting the jump test out, and a team of what felt like fifty were waiting next to the treadmill to connect us up to all sorts of masks and wires.
Nick Blackman was on after me and gave it absolutely everything; by the he end he could hardly stand up, so you could see the nerves on Guths and Hope's faces knowing they still had to jump on! Hope was last up and just before he started, Nick said his arms were really heavy towards the end of his test, so his advice to Hopey was to ‘save his arms’ during the first few levels. To our amusement, Hopey ran the first few levels with his arms firmly by his waist, Nick knew it didn’t make the slightest difference, other than making Hope look slightly stupid and giving us something to laugh at during the climax of what was a tough morning. Pearcy wasn’t in our group, but I’m told that during his test he stepped on to complete another level, only for his legs to give way - sending him flying off the treadmill before being saved by the harness that was there for such situations! All the boys were gutted we weren’t there to witness him in a world of pain. Jokes aside, speaking to Harvo and the Gaffer afterwards - they were really pleased that everybody looked after themselves over the summer and came back in such good shape. That said it isn’t pretty viewing watching grown men clutching for air in the dying stages of each test!
Wednesday morning was the fist time we were together as a full squad and staff as we headed off to Champneys for a three day trip to start our footballing work. The bus was as loud as you would expect with everybody exchanging stories from the summer, generally all in a very good mood and happy to be back together. We all know how last season ended and having broke up pretty much straight after that horrible Sunday afternoon, it was nice to be back in better spirits and looking forward to another season of drama.
We got through some serious work and a number of double sessions over the next few days before returning home. It was a mix of technical work and hard fitness based sessions but each one included the ball; Harvo, Cros (Andy Crosby) and Deano (Dean Wilkins) make sure it's always relevant to football which is a big plus for us. I can assure you the bus on the return leg was significantly quieter than it had been three days earlier, with the majority of the boys taking the chance to have a few hours sleep. Sleeping on the bus is a risky business though... as Pearcey found out. Guths took the chance to get a less than glamorous photo for his Instagram account. Though as my roomie G-Mac said, its a very long season so plenty of chance for revenge!
I couldn't finish without giving you an insight into arguably the talking point of the whole trip for both squad and staff. During our Wednesday evening meeting the gaffer revealed his masterplan - as he put everybody's name into a hat along with six team captains. One by one names were picked out at random to create six teams, who were then challenged to spend the night coming up with a ‘performance’ for the next day. The brief was to ’sing a song using only your body parts for music’.
My team was Shauny C (Shaun Cummings), Jordan Obita, Big Hec (Michael Hector), Ryan Edwards and fitness gurus Nick Harvey and Tristan Baker. Twenty minutes had passed with no great ideas, until Shauny had a brainwave and decided on 'We Will Rock You' by Queen. So, 8pm Thursday evening we all headed for the meeting room and eagerly awaited the Reading F.C Talent Show! Somehow, our group pulled it off. Hec and I learned the verses and we all joined together banging our knees for the tune - by the end of it we were well happy with our performance! I must say though we were nowhere near the standard of some of the other teams. The stand out performance by a country mile was given by one man...big Pavel Pogrebnyak. He joined Pearcey, Hal, Jakey Taylor, Aaron Kuhl, kitman Selby Armstrong and Jason Lawson the video analyst in a stunning rendition of Vanilla Ice's 'Ice, Ice Baby'. Pav stole the show with his costume, complete with sunglasses - added to his contribution of saying the words 'Ice, Ice, Baby' every thirty seconds.
It was an amazing idea by the gaffer, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a room of thirty people laughing so much. All the acts were recorded and on Friday evening we all headed for the meeting room again to watch the ‘show’ back. The video will never become public viewing (don't be so sure Chris - RFC Media Team) but the laughs and slightly embarrassed look on everybody’s face watching it back was quite something. The main aim was to help bring the squad closer together whilst making sure the younger lads got involved with the older professionals. It did exactly that, the young lads did extremely well in training and in the way they conducted themselves around the first team boys... even if they made us feel slightly old! It was a great first week back, the main aim is building fitness towards the opening game, and bring everybody even closer as squad than last year, and it did just that.
We now have a full week at Hogwood to step up our preparations...and hopefully I'll have some more funny stories to share the next time we speak!
Until then, hope your're all well