TRAINING CAMP DIARY DAY 1: HOME FROM HOME
Tuesday, 29. June 2021, 12:36 Uhr
Pre-season began in earnest on Monday with the arrival of the Boys in Brown at their summer training camp in Herzlake. Freshly written on-site by Colin from the St. Pauli media team, our training camp diary offers an informative and sometimes irreverent look at what happens both on and off the pitch.
Am I the only one for whom the words "training camp" somehow have a charm all their own – a kind of school trip vibe? You get on a bus with a load of other people and go somewhere, usually some idyllic spot off the beaten track, with one aim in mind – to work hard and come together as a group, as a collective. It's the first time I'll get to see a training camp close up. The first time on the backroom team and in the thick of things as we move between training, food, training, more food, even more training and even more food. All very arduous and energy-sapping. So much for the school trip vibe. Anything but!
Anyway, let's rewind briefly: Herzlake was selected to give the Boys in Brown an opportunity to prepare for the new season under optimum conditions. Selected once again, we should say, because it isn't that long ago that head coach Timo Schultz and his squad were here for the quarantine training camp enforced by the German Football League. The municipality in Lower Saxony – or to be more precise in the Emsland region between the towns of Quakenbrück and Meppen – was also the pre-season port of call last year. The sign on the hotel car park promises a home from home – which seems fitting somehow. Our Kollau 2.0, at least until July 6th.
And the hotel complex does indeed have a quaint feel to it. If the off-the-wall photo display in the entrance area is anything to go by, a host of famous faces have stayed in the maisonettes and dined in the restaurant over the years, among them German comedians such as Otto Waalkes and Mike Krüger and football clubs such as Eintracht Frankfurt and SC Paderborn. Particularly impressive are the grounds, featuring a paddock and a large windmill dating back to 1809 (a bit of history for you there). This place oozes tradition, just like our beloved FCSP – nice!
But back to Herzlake. The name rings a bell. And then it dawns on me. That's right! This gem of a location was once dubbed Schmerzlake, a play on the German word for pain and a nod in the direction of Felix Magath, the former Fulham boss known for his hard, grinding training methods. There's no need for alarm, however. A quick sweep of the various cubbyholes dotted around the hotel revealed no dust-coated medicine balls from the Magath era. Schulle won't be sending his charges out on gruelling runs through the woods. Well, not on the first day at any rate. Who knows what's in store for the Boys in Brown in this respect?
The team bus arrived just after half past twelve local time, and after checking in, the players went straight for lunch. The most conspicuous figure on arrival, by the way, was goalkeeper Dennis "Smash" Smarsch, who was carrying a large keyboard under his arm. Perhaps a sign of musical highlights to come. Asked at a news conference last Friday to describe the mood in the camp in terms of a music genre, Timo Schultz said the lads still needed to get in the groove, along with the band. Was that a hint? Who knows?
Joking aside, the opening training session began punctually at 15:30 CET with a warm-up and stretching routine overseen by performance coach Christoph Hainc Scheller followed by some passing and shooting drills and a quick practice match. Getting started and finding a rhythm was the task in temperatures hovering around the 26° mark. "Sunshade today, umbrella tomorrow," joked Timo Schultz, eyeing the cherry picker from which match analyst Ole Marschall monitored the goings-on on the pitch with his camera and said parasol.
We'll see if Schulle the weather forecaster is proved right. I haven't brought any wellies with me – probably one of those typical rookie mistakes the first time you go to Schmerz… erm Herzlake.
That's all for now. Best wishes from Herzlake!
Photos: FC St. Pauli/Witters