The first day of pre-season
It was a beautiful day...and then pre-season began!
Saturday 29th June. 10am.
The blue sky, bright sunshine and perfect playing surface provided the tranquil surroundings of the training ground. It was the first day of pre-season.
First to arrive was the manager, soon to be followed by his staff. Hayden greeted everyone, wishing them "Good morning" and immediately got down to work.
As Hayden and his staff prepared the session with meticulous detail, the players quickly started to arrive.
By 10.30am (fifteen minutes before the meeting time), twenty-two players had reported and the training ground was the hub of activity.
From the moment the session started, you could sense the positivity within the squad. During all of the physical and conditioning tests, the atmosphere was buoyant, uplifting, added with professionalism and togetherness. While Hayden and Tutu were orchestrating proceedings, the work ethic and spirit generated by the players was clear to see.
To suggest that the session looked difficult would be an understatement, as would suggesting the players put in every last effort. Those who were accustomed to the manager's methods had obviously stayed in shape, while the new players embraced the fresh ideas. Players who had suffered long term injuries such as Leo Chambers and David Fitzpatrick looked sharp, which can only be good news. Rob Tolfrey admitted to "working hard throughout the summer" and he looked lean, while watching Dan Bennett revived fond memories and the anticipation of exciting times ahead.
It was Day One, the players were back and a new era had officially started.
As the players dispersed around 1.30pm, the official website caught up with Hayden.
"It was a really positive start," he enthused. "For the squad to work so hard in such intensive heat speaks volumes for their attitude. The boys put in a super-human effort in temperatures of 32 degrees."
"It was also great to see the lads immediately integrate so well together to start building the team spirit."
Two absentees were Michael Abnett and Amadou Tangara. Hayden explained their change mind.
"Both Michael and Amadou signed around ten days ago. However, both had second thoughts last week. Both felt that they needed more guarantees of playing time, which we couldn't give them."
"Michael is a top right-back and will be an excellent signing for someone. Amadou is a very talented goalkeeper who was fantastic for Merstham last season. I fully understand their situation and why they raised concerns. Equally, they appreciate that I cannot give them the assurances they were seeking, having reconsidered their position. They are both great lads and I wish them well."
Hayden also confirmed that there may be one further arrival this week: "We are in talks to add to the squad but nothing is agreed. I'm pleased with the group and have confidence in the players we have assembled. One more would be the final piece in the jigsaw and the icing on the cake."