The day had finally arrived. The monotonous morning routine took on a distinctly more exciting task as every bead of moisture that poured from the shower head carried nine o’clock ever closer. Breakfast – which was set by the dieticians at the club – was hoovered down. The dishes, normally fastidiously packed into the dishwasher by the young man in a hurry, was left atop the elegant glass dinner table. This could wait. He grabbed his bag and zipped through his modest apartment to the communal stairs, which he took three at a time. He bounded to the car park and set his car in motion. The soundtrack to the drive to Colney was provided by Deadmau5. The normal motivating tones of Eminem weren’t required this morn.
Even the usual clog of traffic couldn’t darken the sunny disposition of this particular teenager. A young man always fighting to gain recognition is a formidable sight but all of his exertions had paid off in one discussion over the phone yesterday afternoon. Ray Parlour, the youth coach at Arsenal and a man who bled red and white, called him to notify him that his hard work at training and his displays for the youth team had been noticed by the Boss – who wanted him to train with the first team from this moment. He was part of the squad for the upcoming season.
Since that call from Ray – who had led this precocious talent through a plethora of temptations and pitfalls with a sure hand – the youngster had floated through what remained of the day. The usual fare of internet gaming and the cinema held no sway as they usually would. He spent the rest of the evening calling his family and friends. Modesty mattered not a jot. He had made it.
Now ploughing a slow furrow through the traffic, he was thinking of the rollcall of illustriousness that was the first-team squad and the training team. His skin prickled with anticipation. What a golden opportunity.
He went through the barrier and offered a greeting with gusto to the security guard posted as sentry to the entrance to Arsenal’s training complex. He swung the car into a spot and performed what can only be described as a bounce out of the car. He was so pumped for this.
His friends from the youth team had gathered outside the indoor pitches. they greeted his arrival with the usual whoops and caterwauls that normally follow a meeting between youths. The bond forged between these young men was forged from years of living in each others pockets for a number of years in order to utilize their undoubted talent and school them for the rigorous demands of a top-flight football career. The ‘Arsenal Way’ had been passed down from generation to generation and it was as important as one-touch drills or fitness work. Ray wouldn’t let them shirk it.
After the hugs, headlocks and banter – the decisive parting of the way hit them on their path. To the left, the youth team were gathering. To the right was not only the first team training – but destiny. It was a heady moment they all recognised. The banter was watered down as handshakes and wishes of good luck rained upon the young man. the time for joking had passed.
He forged his way to the entrance of the gargantuan – and now what resembled imposing – indoor arena. He peered in and all of the players he had watched and gleaned from were currently knocking footballs around nonchalantly, awaiting the Boss. He drew a sharp intake of breath, steadied himself, and walked in.
There was no anticipated segregation as the cliques that had formed before his arrival to the squad were all encompassing. Santi, alexis, Aaron and Theo all warmly welcomed him. Some of them years ago had been the very same young lad awaiting validation. Everyone knew though, that if anyone was in this position then they warranted it.
A game of DONKEY began and he more than held his own. Eager to impress – it meant his usual languid style suffered as stiffness to muscles hampered his touch somewhat but Ollie attempting a volley and falling on his backside shook the tightness away to a degree. Then, the Boss walked in.
No matter that he had received criticism. Wenger still drew massive respect from all. Clad in the usual training gear, he had a quick joke with them all and informed them of today’s schedule.
The lad tried to soak in every moment. Every word dripped with knowledge so he intently listened. First off would be fitness work to slowly bring them to the level required after a summer of rest and no rigid diet! Next would be touch drills and then the training would be divided dependent on what position you played. The group of players acknowledged the Boss and all jogged out of the arena. The young man started to follow before Arsene tapped him on the shoulder.
” Young man. Don’t let nerves affect your showing. There is a reason why you’re here so go and show it. Good luck.”
With that, he smiled and walked away, now deep in discussion with Steve Bould. The adolescent was on cloud nine and now filled with rocket fuel. He was going to rock their world.
He cantered out of the indoor pitches and onto the phalanx of outdoor pitches. He headed to the rear of the group of players and cast his eyes upon the new fitness coach. This day just kept on getting better.
Patrick Vieira greeted them all with a beaming smile. The man who was the midfield General for the great Arsenal teams during Arsene’s early tenure was now the new fitness coach. He was where he belonged. Back with Arsenal.
” I know you are all surprised to see me. I will be your new fitness coach and will also work with you for ball training. I hope to help our club succeed, which we are very close to. First though, we run.”
For thirty minutes, the extravagant eating habits these players had chosen over the summer was sweated out by Paddy. The young man with his head in the clouds though, felt no ill-effects. He was on fire. The adrenaline carried him through the lactic acid build-up and he simply brushed away the sweat that plagued his vision.
After a stretch of time and a much-needed warm-down, Paddy congratulated the players and then had a chat with the Boss, who had been watching with a keen eye. The players breathed heavy but engaged each other in conversation. If his physical attributes didn’t suffer then his tongue-tied attempts at conversation with the more lustrous members of the squad were laughable. He chided himself mentally at such a fumbling attempt at camaraderie. What he didn’t know was that his nervousness endeared him to the other guys who were soon involving him in the inside jokes that marked another watershed moment. A sharp whistle broke his reverie. They all stood up and were welcomed by none other than true living legends of not only the Cannon, but the game in general.
Gilberto Silva. Dennis Bergkamp. Robert Pires. Tony Adams. Thierry Henry. Icons.
Every single player in the current squad were in awe of the men in front of them. The Boss ambled in front of the group and also in front of the men who had changed the game.
” Gentlemen. These fellows behind me you already know. I have enlisted their help and their extensive skillsets to further our potential. We aim for success this season. Nothing less. With these men helping us we cannot fail. They will polish what you already know. They are the best in what they know. Let them teach you.”
The group was divided into playing position. Adams would take the defenders along with Bould. Gilberto and Vieira would run the midfielders through their paces and Pires along with Dennis and Titi would oversee the attackers. Seeing as the young fella was a wide forward – he would be given the chance to lift directly from the combined knowledge and experiences of Dennis, Titi and Bobbi.
The following training flew by and if anyone asked him what happened – which his family and friends would undoubtedly do – then he would gush liberally about the achievements of his new training team but he would be unable to recall what activities took place. His head was in a fugue. If your recurring dream actually came true in front of your eyes then you would suffer the same consequences.
After training and receiving a hearty manhug from Dennis Bergkamp that would stay locked within his consciousness for all of time, he had his lunch but was sat with his new friends to match his first-team status. He glanced over at his friends at the Youth Team table and received a few thumbs up and a smattering of winks and nods. They understood and would still be at the end of a phone.
With lunch devoured he made his way to his car. Driving home was completely unremarkable and was done with a head full of nothing. He was an automaton. It was only until he had parked up and sat at his armchair before reality not only kicked in – but slapped his face with fervour. He had just shared time and learned from veritable dignitaries of football. Holy crap. That was the instant he picked up his phone to call his parents. What a day. He was finding it hard to believe it himself. The training team that was made directly from the footballing gods themselves. The fact that he would be learning from them every single day refused to sink in.