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TOUR DIARY - DAY NINE: The one-week assessment
I’VE spent a week watching the day-to-day happenings at Town’s base on the banks of Lake Garda and I thought now would be an apt time to give my take on what’s been going on out here.
Watching training sessions on a daily basis has been eye-opening for me personally in terms of discovering the kind of drills Paolo Di Canio puts his players through, how well they adapt to them and how united the squad appears to be so early in pre-season.
With only one game, of dubious quality, under their belts it is hard to form a solid opinion of the new recruits, but Andy Williams, James Collins, Alan Navarro, Tommy Miller, Troy Archibald-Henville and Gary Roberts have all shown glimpses of their certifiable talent.
Fans back home will most certainly enjoy watching the six brand new faces in action when Town return home.
Collins is a character. Loud and self-confident, on the evidence of the past week he is going to cause League One defences all sorts of problems this season. He’s obviously impressed Di Canio since arriving at the County Ground and could turn out to be a real coup.
Up front alongside him is Williams. The capture from Yeovil seems to have a naturally more reserved personality, but that’s not to say he does not contribute in his own way. He for one has enjoyed a friendly jab at the travelling media when we’re sat pitchside watching the squad run lap after lap.
Miller always greets us with a Cheshire Cat smile and a boisterous “alright lads”. He’s looked calm and composed on the ball, much like Navarro, and evidently Di Canio is thankful for the midfield pair’s vast experience.
Roberts has linked up nicely with Jay McEveley down the left. The two looked very dangerous together – albeit against weak opposition – when Town slaughtered a local select XI 9-1 last week.
Archibald-Henville, who Di Canio has started to refer to as Archie, seems to be the quietest of the bunch but I have been impressed by his touch on the ball and his distribution with it. Swindon appear to be blessed with four very talented centre-backs this season.
The atmosphere around the squad seems to be very positive. The fitness exercises are exhausting and hugely taxing physically – Matt Ritchie told his manager after Monday’s morning session that the running they are currently doing should be illegal – but the guys’ professionalism is shining through.
Those running drills have shown just how unbelievably fit some of the squad, notably Chris Smith and Oliver Risser, really are.
When a ball is thrown into the mix, the players look smart, fit and fast. Everyone encourages each other on, everyone applauds each other for a moment of magic, everyone seems focused and dedicated.
Some players are louder than others. Ritchie has taken to shouting out the phrase “come here you” whenever he finds the top corner in shooting practise – and believe me, that’s become a very regular occurrence.
With so many new faces, those with longer ties to the club have stood up to be counted on tour, with Raffa De Vita, Luke Rooney and Simon Ferry all impressing.
There’s still a long way to go until competitive football returns next month. But, having been with the squad for just a matter of days, I can tell it will be well worth waiting for.