Date: 23rd July 2012 at 11:35am
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Sunday: There was a day of various sessions at the Galaxy complex, including Spurs coaches working with LA coaches training US coaches; a meet and greet with the players; and then a 90 minute public training sessions where AVB and the coaches worked with the squad.

Four sections to the training – Warm up; a session where two goals faced each other 18 yards apart, and the players in two teams had to score from crosses or defend them (great to watch – Freund, VDV and two coaches crossing the balls); a game with posts quite close; a game with posts about half a pitch apart.

The temperature out there was about 75F, maybe a bit higher. Maybe about 1000 people watching from the side, many of them kids and families (typical LA Galaxy crowd). $50 a seat, proceeds to charity. A few things of note from the public session:

Good vibe between the players – looked settled, enjoying it, mind you who wouldn`t love being paid to kick a ball around in the sun. Almost as good as working for the wardrobe crew on Baywatch.

The big one for me – AVB looking relaxed and appearing to have authority/command without wielding it – the lack of ego in our squad was apparent, and it seems likely that if a squad does not block his methodology, then he has an infinitely better chance of success. Maybe he`s strong and humbled at the same time, more on this in a bit. Reassuring.

Hudd and Daws look fit and relaxed; Gallas too, and sharp. Kane looked sharp. I won`t go through the whole squad as it could be different tomorrow. Good to see Bale free from the injury that kept him out of the Olympics in a week`s time(?). Walker too. Lots of kids had latched onto Bale.

Vertonghen – looked focused, assured, strong, with a captain`s stature. Him and Kabs playing together is very promising. Looked quite serious too, no high fives or comparing this summer`s tattoos. Stood apart sometimes during rests, rather than socialising.

Bentley – tiny shorts puffed out at the sides like a nappy. Like he had Speedo`s on, looked a bit of a cock – literally. LA is pretty forgiving and you can do your thing here, but there were comments in the crowd. Given he`s got to fight for a place this year, looking like an adolescent member of Buck`s Fizz can`t help.

Gomes – the low note really. In the first actual session with the goals 18 yards apart, it was pretty frantic. Archer (looked good), Carlo, Brad and Gomes were swapping in the two goals constantly. The other 3 goalies were fairly standard, some saves, some goals conceded. Gomes comes on, and literally does 3 world class saves from close range in one minute, one a soaring Superman type save to tip it over the bar two handed, and two low down to his right – all a la v Ars*nal in the 2010 run up to 4th. Astonishing, the last two were like Banks v Pele – and on the second of those, he does his right ankle in, goes off for ice for 40 minutes and then hobbles off not to be seen again. Those three saves really got me thinking – but we know the two sides of that discussion.

Part of this kind of event I suppose is also winning hearts and minds. Last May Man City swaggered into LA touting the FA Cup around, donating funds to a run down part of LA for a pitch, and throwing an evening bash at the British Ambassador`s residence. Had the feel of an aggressive campaign to raise their global profile, and I think left that taste in the mouth (rather than genuinely making friends and spreading a good feel, which would count for much more here). Haven`t seen any City shirts around town this year or any mentions in the paper.

So even somewhere like LA is sensitive to how a team / organization comes across, how it and its fans behave. Leaves quite an impression one way or another, from the motherland of soccer. From this event Spurs came across well, applauding the fans, enjoying the session, signing for maybe 300 fans at the meet and greet. Heard someone come out of that saying “really nice guys”. The relaxed rather than aggressive approach went down well. I sat next to four kids 7-10 years old – very informed. “What`s Spurs ground like?” Paddyspurs lecture – the atmosphere, greatest ground the world has ever seen etc. “But it`s not much bigger than here is it?”. No he`s right, it`s only 8,000 more than LA. So then he gets the picture of the new stadium out and asks about the training complex too.

At the end AVB came out and was interviewed for 8 minutes by the LA Galaxy presenter. I recorded it to transcribe here, but there was so much chat around and he came over muffled/Portuguese that I can only give some highlights:

“Warmth of fans here, very very special” – great reception for Spurs in LA [and also, square brackets, some other clubs where I’ve managed the fans have not been warm]

“Spurs – great tradition, want to play in the way of that tradition” [ergo, some other clubs I’ve managed don`t have a tradition]

“Defend the colors of Spurs”

“Expectations – to go one step further than last season, to the Champions League

Eventually a shot at the title

Europa League a good competition to win, wonderful competition, access to European Supercup, Spurs have won ‘it` in years past”

Interesting emphasis..

Question – when will Spurs be Premier League champions? “Definitely try” – he said more on this that was positive, along the lines of ‘in time’, but I didn`t get it

Mentors who have influenced him? “Jose Mourhino, Barcelona” [no mention of Terry, Cole, Lampard, maybe just ran out of time].

Round of applause for him and then he signed a crowd of autographs.

Sounded like he doesn’t mind living with high expectations. One thing I concluded about Harry was that he preferred to labour without heavy expectations upon himself. He would try to deflate and defuse expectations and targets upon himself (and there`s some wisdom in that, but I think Harry had a comparatively low threshold for pressure) and so the focus was often fuzzy. AVB seems clearly focused, and on four trophies, especially Top 4 and the Europa Cup. Which suggests he`s going to have to manage and utilize a different size of squad.

The highlight for me was the reassurance about AVB – and of course just a massive kick out of seeing the mighty Spurs over here.

As for Galaxy (current MLS champions)… been poor this season but recently and suddenly greatly improved for a run of 3-1-0 in the last four games. Beckham, Keane and Donovan usually amongst the scorers and assists – but their overall team level is maybe mid-Championship (hard to say). Real Madrid won here 4-1 last year. It was 1-1 with Man City (aggressive marketing campaign, ‘let’s draw’) who then won 7-6 on penalties. Quite a few holes in the Galaxy overall game.

Keane is the main attacking threat but the defenses here don’t play the offside trap very well. Kabs should swallow him. Donovan is an honest player, and Beckham`s delivery is still often classic, albeit into much more space than a Premiership team would allow. Here the occasion will be more important than the result. If we try then we could win around 4-0 to 5-1. We`d be legends though if we just pipped them 3 to 2 in the last. LA likes a good show.

Written by paddyspur