Desert Springs, Spain – February 13-22, 2014
We pick up where part one finished, with Jamie Dalrymple, Alex Tysoe and Paul Nixon leaving the core group and heading back to the UK. As Jamie and his collection of exclusive Louis Vuitton luggage, 100% hand crafted from the fur of the fuchsia-tinted, lesser spotted Paraguayan albino armadillo were chauffeured back to his own private jet housed just outside nearby Almeria, and Alex was left to thumb a lift back to Alicante with all of his medical kit bundled into a child’s rucksack. Niko probably ran the 200km to the airport and then talked himself into a seat just behind the pilot for the flight home.
In their places came the daddy of all cricket physios, Dean Conway – star of stage, screen and endless after-dinner stories – and our kit benefactor, five-car Richard Green of soon-to-be-global glazing giants, Abbey Glass (Editor’s Note: one of the management group does some work for Abbey Glass, so there is an editorial obligation to squeeze in a couple of sponsors’ name-checks.)
So where Messrs’ Lord and Dalrymple were on Tuesday, as we write we have South Wales’s combination of the Chuckle Brothers. Both were clearly disorientated after their long haul flights from Bristol and Cardiff respectively. Just before Rich disappeared for ‘a nap’ (emerging approximately 72 hours later), Dean asked whether the villa had a roof terrace. Upon being told it did, he rather interestingly inquired where it was….
The second half of the week saw a gradual increase in the intensity on the part of the players, with the aim of peaking for the match against a Spanish XI at La Manga on the last full day. With Niko back in the UK, it was left to Matt and Harv to run the nets, which continued to play well. In between net practice, there was continued emphasis on fielding and, of course, the strength and conditioning work, where each of the lads had his own tailored individual county programme to follow.
For the management, after 4&3 defeats at the hands of Harvey and Nixon, the Glamorgan pair of Maynard and Dalrymple was keen to turn the tables on the Desert Springs course. They managed to do so, but only just. The pairings were shuffled around after Nixon’s and Dalrymple departures, with Fatkin joining Harvey and Conway partnering Maynard. Richard Green joined to group as a ‘spotter’ but his effectiveness was rather called into question just three shots into the opening hole after Mike managed to hook his drive into the cacti just beyond the ladies’ tee and then shanked his third into some poor unsuspecting millionaire’s villa swimming pool. Rich found neither. Indeed he didn’t even bother looking. He was clearly not the man for this particular job… After being 5 up after nine, Harv and Mike were nearly reeled in, but came through to win, the latter carrying the former to the extent he won as many as one hole.
In the group just ahead, Rob ‘third eye’ Keogh (see opening blog; we’re not explaining that again here…) and Tom Curran took down Greg Holmes and young Aaron Thomason. At least these four ventured out onto the course – Greg for a second time. Wrexham’s leading double-barrelled-named handheld computer game wizard and part time pace bowler Dewi Penryhn-Jones was reported to have spent 92.7% of his free time on the practice range hitting golf balls. But he never made the actual first tee.
Midweek saw a group bonding session around the Champions League football in the complex’s cinema room. Management had organized a €5-a-go pick the first scorer for the previous evening’s Manchester City/Barcelona game but despite there being two goals, the prize went unclaimed, so the €35 rolled over (with JD’s and Nico’s contributions duly treated as kitty donations) for the cinema room main event of Arsenal/Bayern Munich. When Arsenal were awarded an early penalty Greg Holmes almost took the roof off the place when he realized that his man, Mezut Ozil, was the home side’s penalty taker. But Holmesy clearly went a bit early. Ozil missed, and the €60 pot rolled on, It was eventually won, somewhat ironically given his marginally-above-average enthusiasm for the home side, by Mike, when Toni Kroos scored.
A second bike ride was arranged for the Thursday after nets and the majority of the players took part, with Ian Harvey’s backside – still apparently tender from the ride on the second day – passed fit for a second trip out. But he could only manage half of the ride and, having paused for refreshments down at the marina (well, it was warm) he spotted a local eyeing up his bike and the next thing we were treated to an “Oi, love, you can take mine if you want to” in that classic, posh, almost Dalrymple-esque Victorian drawl. She didn’t. But the bike – and Harv – still came back in the van.
Away from the cricket, the lads have managed to keep themselves occupied with other sports and pursuits. We’ve mentioned the golf and cycling. Football formed a part of the first day’s warm-up but rather petered out for the rest of the week as one of the lads managed to lose the ball on day one – “it burst” being the excuse which, somewhat lamely, came back. But on the final day, pre-match at La Manga, football returned to the agenda, with a tense 1-1 deadlock being broken by the predatory Villa striker (three words not found in the same sentence since the days of Peter Withe and Gary Shaw in the early ‘80s), Aaron Thomason rolled the ball into an unguarded goal seconds before time as Dean Conway, ten yards to the right and protecting what he thought was his goal but turned out to be around four metres cubed of extraneous (ding ding – see last blog) Spanish fresh air, hopelessly misjudged his position.
Table tennis was on the agenda, too, but little swimming. Maynard went into the pool on the final day at Desert Springs, but sprang out, like a hyperactive salmon in a high-jumping contest, almost as soon as he’d hit the water. ‘Proper Baltic’, was how Lincolnshire’s finest, Andy Carter, described it.
The food continued to be magnificent, with Ellie and her team doing us proud, though there was that much bread on the table at each meal time that most of the squad, had they been over-tempted, would by the end of the trip, have resembled a Dalek. Cee-Loo Green wasn’t, sadly, one of the 19 artists on the complex’s play list, which ran on a loop at every meal time. I can name all 19, in sequential order, as I type. So what does the Head Coach do? Downloads it onto his iTunes, creates a playlist, and promptly plays it during the warm-up before the game at La Manga. If I hear ‘Night Fever’ by the Bee Gees just one more time, I think I’ll string myself up.
The penultimate night at Desert Springs saw the group entertained – regally – in the Cave restaurant, with a special three course meal. At one end of the table Dean Conway entertained the young Welsh contingent – plus Mattie “Dai” McKiernan, who had completed his mandatory five-day residency qualification period and was therefore now 100% Welsh – with a series of stories about his Glamorgan and England days back in the 1890s. There was also entertainment from Holmes with his let’s-make-a-napkin-into-a-candle routine. Wrexham’s king of origami, Penrhyn-Jones, along with Cameron Herring and Fynn Prentice-Hudson, all had a crack, with mixed results, but McKiernan’s effort looked about as much like a candle as, well, a napkin. (Richie Benaud voice): ‘Disappointing effort, that.’
At the other end of the table, Abbey Glass’s finest, Richard Green, was entertaining the Midlands contingent of Andy Carter, Rob Keogh and Jon Webb. We assume it must have been about his now legendary career-high knock of 1 for a Mark Wallace Benefit XI against Cresselly Cricket Club the previous summer. Only for it to be pointed out that the 1 was, in fact, a leg bye. These lads can learn so much from the experts. Hopefully Rich gave them some tips on what he is actually good at – business – and didn’t try to bamboozle them with his cricket knowledge.
During the match at La Manga, Mike’s status as a former county Chief Exec was called into question by fellow management members when he managed to lose Harv’s van key. His rucksack was emptied out approximately 361 times, but to no avail. Eventually the key was located ten minutes later in Dean Conway’s pocket… But on immediately returning it, the former leadership brains of Glamorgan Cricket succeeded only in losing it again. Once more, the rucksack was pulled apart and emptied, but with no joy. After another ten minutes of pretty fruitless searching involving half the squad, the key was found, It had fallen into the physio’s ice bucket. Along with some headphones…. two Japanese prisoners of war and 134 television remote control pads. Mike was promptly given some crayons, a colouring book and a six pack of Strongbow and told to occupy himself quietly in a distant corner of the outfield for the rest of the day. How he rose to the dizzy heights of CEO remains a mystery to his colleagues.
A massive ‘thank you’ to everyone who has supported this inaugural Tom Maynard Academy. In particular the guys on the ground in Spain, especially Andy House, who appears to be a harder worker than Jamie Dalrymple’s butler. And a big one to Nico and Harv, too. Harv’s been brilliant; a trendsetter for the morning bacon baguette, early evening beer partner for the rest of the management group, and chief bell-ringer when he didn’t understand any particular words (and as an Aussie, it seemed to us that that bell was being run every 30 seconds, sometimes for words of only one syllable…), he’s been a diamond. Matt’s loved working with them and so have the lads.
This is being sent halfway through the game between the Academy and the Spanish XI. The visitors made 226, being bowled out just inside their allotted 40 overs, with Jon Webb making 56, Cameron Herring 42 and Mattie McKiernan 34, the total boosted by a couple of late sixes from big Andy Carter, including a monster into the car park behind square leg. Cricket Espana have been tweeting updates and the result of the chase should be found by clicking here: http://www.cricketspain.es/
Feedback from the trip has been very positive, with some final debrief sessions taking place on the day of departure. There are clearly areas which we would like to improve but the overwhelming view of the players who took part seems to have been upbeat and positive, with all of them confirming that they took an enormous amount from the programme. Provisional dates have already been booked for 2015!
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Andy Carter (Nottinghamshire); Tom Curran (Surrey); George Edwards (Surrey); Cameron Herring (Gloucestershire); Greg Holmes (Glamorgan); Fynn Hudson-Prentice (Sussex); Rob Keogh (Northamptonshire); Mattie McKiernan (Lancashire); Dewi Penryhn-Jones (Glamorgan); Aaron Thomason (Warwickshire); Jon Webb (Warwickshire)
Matthew Maynard (Head Coach); Ian Harvey (Coach); Paul Nixon (Coach); Alex Tysoe (Physio – Phase 1); Dean Conway (Physio – Phase 2); Jamie Dalrymple (Coach/Speaker); Mike Fatkin (Trustee/Speaker); Richard Green (Kit Sponsor); Andy House (Sport Europe, Local Contact); Gordon Lord (ECB)