Austria Diary: Day Six
By Kevin Affleck
The penultimate day at the team hotel was a funny old one.
There was no session out on the grass as the players were in recovery mode. The squad split into three groups and had a session in the gym but there was no rest for Troy Deeney, who made the short walk to the training field with a member of the strength and conditioning staff and was really put through his paces on the bike and on a run. He is now back to feeling human again after his two-day spell in bed through illness.
The players had woken earlier wondering how a 45-minute bus journey home from the Ajax game the evening before managed to take nearly an hour and 45 minutes. On the way there they arrived before a people carrier carrying additional members of staff but their journey back was delayed.
The rest of the day was classified as free time and the players could largely spend it how they wanted. There was talk of a team-bonding session on the go-kart track but that was quickly shelved on insurance grounds. Can you imagine the premium required to cover potential injury to Premier League players worth millions of pounds?
Instead, some spent the afternoon by the pool; Daryl Janmaat and Daniel Bachmann hired a car and took advantage of Bachmann's local knowledge; Javi Gracia and some of his staff went out for a walk once they had finished analysing the Ajax game; Deeney, Pontus Dahlberg, Andre Gray, Craig Cathcart, Tom Cleverley and Adrian Mariappa went on a cable-car ride in a nearby town while Ben Foster just couldn't resist a little bike ride up the mountains.
He went up with assistant coaches Zigor Aranalde and Isidre Ramon, but lasted just half-an-hour and decided to come back. He was probably half-tired from a tough week and also half conscious of the fact he had borrowed the bike usually used by one of the Klitschkos. That would take some explaining to the Ukrainian brothers if you wrapped it round a tree, especially as the decorated former heavyweight boxers turned up to the hotel mid-afternoon. It was Vitali's 48th birthday, too.
Étienne Capoue rounded off the day by getting a few members of the squad involved in a game of wolf, which is basically a game of bluff he used to regularly play in France. He first introduced the squad to it on the tour of Germany in 2015 and here he was roping Gerard Deulofeu, Domingos Quina, Christian Kabasele, Janmaat, Bachmann and Marc Navarro into his web of deceit. It really is quite something to watch the animated Frenchman try and kid his teammates and get inside their head. This time he managed to lose the battle of wills with Navarro and didn't take it well. There is never a dull moment when he's around.