Final diary entry from the tour of Finland...
As this diary entry is being written, we sit in a traffic jam in a heavily forested area, en route to Helsinki Airport. It has been a long trip but the hard work has been put in, three wins delivered and the boys are looking forward to an exciting clash with Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder and the rest of the Galatasaray team.
Wednesday marked our final full day in Finland and everyone was getting used to the new surroundings in Jyväskylä. We head over to JJK’s home, the Harjun Stadion, and then move over to the training ground just around the corner.
Training is short but lively ahead of the evening’s encounter with the Finnish top-flight outfit. The lads finish up with a few kick-up games between themselves and the mood is vibrant.
Dinner is followed by a break that sees the players rest ahead of kick-off. They grab another bite to eat before heading into a pre-match meeting.
The manager informs the players of the starting line-up and reiterates the messages delivered in training throughout the week on a large flipchart situated at the front of a private room to the side of the hotel’s main restaurant. It is encouraging to see these directions put into practice in a match situation.
The team delivers another fast-paced and confident performance. Francois Zoko tucks away a penalty and Enoch Showunmi’s chipped finish is sublime, as you’ll see when the Magpie Player highlights go live.
As you will have probably read, we had a couple of loyal fans that followed us on our journey, Paul and Harry Mace. The team were eager to repay them for their commitment and Chris Kiwomya presented them with a signed pre-season matchworn jersey ahead of kick-off.
It was also a nice surprise to see another supporter join us in Jyväskylä – Martin Dabell. Chris is quick to introduce himself and gets chatting about his journey and reasons for joining us on tour.
Martin had visited a number of countries and has more lined up, including a trip on the Siberian Express, though he’ll be back in the country for the season opener with Sheffield United! It sounds interesting and Chris invites Martin to join him and the coaching staff at the hotel after the match.
We also welcomed a couple of familiar faces on the last day – chief executive Jim Rodwell and associate director Ian Roberts. The pair are enthusiastic about the stories of our stay and enjoy the final match of the tour.
Chris is extremely happy with how the lads have bonded on and off the pitch and is excited about the friendlies that lie ahead. Even more exciting is the news that a striker is on the way and this is confirmed as Danny Haynes the following day, just as we land at Gatwick Airport.
We’re informed that our team bus has broken down but a replacement is not too far behind so we’re delayed by around 15 minutes. We later hit a bit of traffic on the M25 but it does not hold us up too much and we’re back in Nottingham for 10.45pm – ready for home and bed.
The lads are in for training on Friday but will receive a much-deserved weekend off. Countdown to the League 1 kick-off is now heating up and you sense that things are coming together nicely.