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TOUR DIARY - DAY 13: Finishing on a positive note
SO it’s all over and done with.
As I write to you all today the Swindon Town players have just sat down to dinner, smiling from ear to ear.
And they’ve fully earned those cheeky grins. That’s two weeks of unbelievably tough training complete.
They may be leaving the 30-plus degrees of northern Italy behind today when they catch their Easyjet flight back to London Gatwick, but I can guarantee the vast majority will walk out of arrivals, feel the rain on their faces and simply be happy to be home.
That’s not a slant on their professionalism, in fact the squad have been unfaultable in their attitude and commitment over the past fortnight.
It’s just now they are ready for a few home comforts, as you or I would be after the kind of experience they have been subjected to in the beautiful surroundings of Lake Garda.
And, strangely perhaps, I too am missing England, its fascinating oddities and peculiar charm.
My time with the Town squad at Hotel Veronello has been nothing short of intriguing, and I have learnt more about the way Paolo Di Canio operates in this short period than in all the press conferences I have attended rolled together into one glorious, Italian-lilted ball.
I have enjoyed a fantastic insight into the way the team gels together, socially and professionally, and believe me when I say – from my standpoint at least – this 25-man squad looks united.
I have discovered what makes players tick, how they deal with boredom, their gaming preferences, their sense of humour, and I hope the Advertiser’s coverage of the past 14 days has given everyone back home at least a snippet of all of the above.
Over the course of our time in Italy, I have tried in my diary to cover all aspects of life within the touring squad.
I’ve talked about daily routine and the work of fitness coach Claudio Donatelli, Di Canio’s unbridled competitiveness, the dangers of data roaming and the errors of Barney Ronay.
And as I prepare to leave Italy, a few bottles of Barolo heavier in the suitcase and several skin-shades darker, I have little left to add.
My Italian is just as bad as last month, my phone bill is significantly more and Claudio Donatelli really doesn’t look like a lightbulb.
A chorus of ‘Yellow Submarine’ has broken out behind me, as the players again indulge in their initiation ritual.
There’s an overwhelming sense of positivity in the air.
I think that’s a pretty apt place to leave it.