As we all know by now, because it’s been the main West Ham news over the past two weeks, the team has returned from a trip to Dubai which was meant as a team building and training exercise.
Booking trips to lands far away has become a trend in recent years and it’s worth taking a look at the impact, either positive or negative, on a team. Well, let’s start with a negative (then it can only get better!). A team leaving the country for a week leaves the press open to filling their newspapers with rubbish. There’s no “real” news happening, so instead we get “non-news” about transfers that will never happen and managers who will never take over. Then we get the stories that suggest that a side struggling for form have got the cheek to go on holiday, whilst us hard-working folk are doing nine-to-fives in the snow. In reality, it’s not unusual for a squad to take a team building trip when there are no games to be played.
Before us, Swansea, Reading, Norwich, and QPR have all booked trips to the United Arab Emirates this year, opting to partake in training in the sunshine. The heat is said to benefit players that are especially prone to injury as the warm weather makes muscles react in a different way to that of damp and chilly climate. I personally see nothing wrong with heading away for a training exercise. They’re only human after-all, and who wouldn’t opt for a week in the heat to grab some much needed vitaminD? Wellington Paulista, that’s who. I was quite taken-aback by Paulista’s desire to stay in the UK and play reserve football and my initial reaction was fair play.
He scored three goals in his first three development squad matches, and I think it’s a credit to him that he wants to keep playing, keep scoring and making his way to the first team on merit. Alright, so it’s not top flight football he’s playing, but it’s football all the same, and it’s good practice.
There was talk of an incident where West Ham players were pictured not concentrating on training as such, and more playing volleyball with passing bikini clad women. In actual fact, the picture in question that I have seen shows no players looking anywhere but at the ball. There is an obvious media angle to take on this, which is that the team are more interested in enjoying themselves than training.
There is, however, an alternative angle, which would read “West Ham lads are only human”. Let’s put this into an everyday situation, for us mere mortals to understand. You’re in the office, in a meeting and you glance out of the window for a minute. As you do so, a handsome man/lovely lady walks past and you probably follow them with your eyes until they’re out of sight and maybe/probably daydream about playing beach volleyball with them. If the newspapers picked up on that, they’d a) be boring and b) have moles everywhere.
Where the club is concerned, there have been many stories in the last couple of weeks on the official club website, that seem to be trying to justify the trip. We’ve been bombarded by stories claiming that the trip will enhance the squad morale, it will boost confidence, it will see better fitness, and reassurance that it’s not a holiday.
It feels like this mountain of news has come from club staff who are worried that fans and press are all assuming that they’re away having the time of their lives. To be honest, I’d like if they were striking a balance between having a good time and therefore strengthening togetherness, and putting in some hard training in testing heat. That sounds fair, doesn’t it? Being part of a team can be hard, and we’ve witnessed a few in-team rows over the years, but when you’re away from the strains of a rain soaked pitch and everyday life, things can change.
Allardyce has apparently been taking his sides to Dubai for many years. He took his West Ham side for the first time last year, and look what it did then – they returned to win one, draw about a million in a row (excuse my slight exaggeration), and then lose one. I find this odd when looking up the actual results to remind myself, because I’ve constantly heard how much good it did for us last time. It got us off to a good start, but maybe didn’t contribute that much to our subsequent promotion.
As I previously mentioned, we are one of five teams to jet off for a “break” this month. You only have to Google those team trips to find that those clubs are equally trying to justify their decisions to go away for a week. With the growing belief that time away can bond a team and change training regimes, I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard about Premier League clubs abroad. Maybe there is something to be said for being knocked out of the FA Cup early. I’m not for a second suggesting that we would ever deliberately lose a match, but I hope it won’t come to teams taking the competition even less seriously in order to get a sunshine fix in February.
Perhaps to stop it coming to this, the FA really should look into a proper winter break for the Premier League.