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Saturday provided an interesting insight into the squad away from the training pitch. There is not a lot to do in Kemi but the players keep themselves entertained.
A handful congregate on the landing of the fourth floor, lounging on the sofas and sharing stories and humorous videos on their smartphones. Another group play poker for Pick ‘N’ Mix in one of the bedrooms, which Dean Leacock eventually wins.
Others opt to get out of the hotel, such as Haydn Hollis and Fabian Spiess, who decide to wander down to the harbour and beachfront. Away from the worn buildings in the town centre lies a picturesque view, complemented by the sun, which creates a stunning scene as it reflects off the waves.
We follow the paths past the docked boats and arrive at a small beach, where Haydn and Fabian cast stones into the water, before stopping off at café for a can of coke. The pair chat about being away for the first time and how they are enjoying the stay in Kemi.
As with Marbella 12 months prior, the pre-season trip does wonders for team bonding. Each day, you sense the closeness of the squad growing and the new players are evidently settling in, as they get to know their new teammates.
Earlier in the day, the squad was treated to a strawberry and cream cake by goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, who was celebrating his 26th birthday. It is customary for the birthday boy to provide an assortment of treats and Bart certainly delivered.
In terms of training, there are two full sessions – one in the morning and another late in the afternoon. The earlier workout sees plenty of fitness drills and two-on-three encounters with the football.
Both are competitive, pitting the players against each other and this gets the best out of everyone. The same can be said of the afternoon session, which starts off with a fun yet effective warm up but is based around a match scenario incorporating three goals.
The pace is very impressive and more promising signs are on show. There is even a call for video technology when Manny Smith controversially clears Alan Sheehan’s lobbed bicycle kick finish off the line… the verdict: handball.
If you’re a Magpie Player subscriber, make sure you check out Bartosz taking on some local children, who fancied their chances from the penalty spot. Top corner hits were made to look easy and they were later rewarded with a signed pair of Bart’s gloves.