21 December 2017

Following a week of freezing temperatures, unplayable pitches and disrupted arrangements it was with great excitement that the senior football squad travelled to Villarreal in search of sun and Spanish opposition. Having left in the early hours, the squad wasted no time getting into the swing of Spanish style training, and after only 4 hours in the country training was underway at Villarreal FC, led by coaches from the Spanish La Liga Club. Over the course of 5 full days the boys were put through their paces in typical Spanish drills, pass, move and pass again. A little different to the direct style of English football some of the players had previously experienced. 

The first fixture of the trip saw the 2nd XI travel into Valencia for an evening match against a typically Spanish opposition in Deportivo Lambretta. Given the unfavourable preparation, having only landed that morning, and never previously played together, the 2nd XI put in a promising and whole-hearted display, eventually loosing 0-3. 

A busy first day set the tone for the rest of the trip with two further training sessions on day two before the competition moved from the training ground to the bowling alley for an enjoyable evening bowling. Day three saw the 1st XI get their fixtures underway, and after another morning of training the 1st XI took on Les Palmes. Despite a poor start and conceding early, the Abingdon side grew into the game, dominating possession which is extremely rewarding against Spanish opposition and playing large parts of the game in the opponent’s half. A Joe Lilley header from an in-swinging corner gave the team a thoroughly deserved equaliser, however a late mix-up at the back led to a disappointing 1-2 defeat. 

From the football ground the tour squad changed their focus to the basketball court and a great evening’s entertainment followed – joining the locals in supporting Valencia Basket in the Spanish Premier Basketball League. Day 4 started with a tour of Estadio De La Ceramica, the home ground of Villarreal FC during which players experienced the pressure of a press conference, and detailed how they were going to right the wrongs of their performances over the past two days. This was followed by training session number 5 with the Villarreal staff before both teams travelled back into Valencia for their final fixtures of the tour against Mallila FC. 

Playing at a typical Spanish ground under lights the 2nd XI fought well against a talented side and despite conceding early, a smart set piece gave full back Daniel Rohll the opportunity to open the Abingdon side's account. The Abingdon team then continued to create chances, bombarding the Spanish opposition, before unfortunately conceding a couple of late goals on the counter; 1-4 the final score. 

In their final game of the trip the 1st XI got off to a flier, moving the ball with fluency any Spanish side would be proud of, and some clinical finishing saw the Abingdon 1st XI take a 3-0 lead in the first 15 minutes with goals from Sam Warren, Mathéo Charrier-Chardin and Nick Webster. With all players stepping up from their performances earlier in the trip, the Abingdon side continued to press, and a further two goals from Jamie Masters gave them a convincing 5-1 win. 

After a late evening of fixtures the night before, the last day of the tour started with a final morning training session before the squad headed for some culture, visiting the key landmarks of Valencia whist experiencing the local traditional lunch, Paella, at a traditional restaurant. This brought to a close an action packed and highly successful five days of football during which the players developed technically on the field, and friendships off the field, ideal preparation for the season ahead. Whilst Tilsley Park may not have the t-shirt temperatures enjoyed by all, the squad now look forward to knuckling down with pre-season ahead of the opening fixture against an Old Abingdonian Returning Captains XI on 5 January 2018. 

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