In part two of the Bowles family’s German adventure, Sharon takes us to the open training session and has a brush with German TV.
Hotel Klosterpforte open training session, Wednesday 17th July
Having taken the decision to come and see the team, we assumed that an open training session would be on offer. We didn’t know the full details when we left for Germany, but an email to the club confirmed that this would take place at Residence Klosterpforte, Marienfeld as it did last year.
Knowing that this would be at 10 am, and bearing in mind the amount of time we would need to take to travel (and how getting anywhere on time can be an issue), we booked a room at the hotel itself. We spent a few hours travelling up on Tuesday and arrived at the hotel late that evening.
The Residence is a beautiful converted monastery, with a number of buildings in the complex. There is a café, bar, the Sports Hotel which is a newer building used by football clubs using the training facilities, and the main hotel itself.
The complex is set in beautiful surroundings and has the feel of an Oxbridge college. We checked in to our room and was delighted to see that Teemu had been provided with his own dog blanket!
We spent the late evening taking Teemu for a walk and around the quiet country roads surrounding the hotel (Jacob’s ability to spot amusing things led him to the road sign to “Harsewinkel” which he found hilarious, prompting the odd Ricky van Wolfswinkel joke).
Around the grounds again, then back to the van for a late-night snack for Jacob (he is diabetic, so he often needs a snack to prevent any low blood sugars overnight). It was pretty weird sat there in a pitch-black car park, hearing the church bells chime for midnight, with Teemu circling the van and Jacob chomping away on cornflakes, but that’s the beauty of having a campervan!
We walked up three flights of stairs (Jacob has a phobia of lifts), so by the time we got to our room, we were pretty tired. We settled down hoping that Teemu’s previous behaviour at the Holiday Inn, where he barked at anyone passing our room wouldn’t be repeated.
We needn’t have worried though, as he seemed to settle in well. He woke quite early, so he took Andy for a walk before breakfast. Some of the players were already up and having breakfast.
Having been unable to pick up a proper wi-fi signal at our holiday cottage, we were desperate to get a decent signal to catch up with the real world… except the hotel wi-fi wasn’t working either. Oh well, what’s going on in the world can wait (and in times like these, that’s usually just as well).
Off to breakfast, and we were really amazed that Teemu could accompany us in the breakfast room (Germany are far more tolerant of children and dogs than is the case in England) and so we had breakfast in instalments, having to take him out from time to time.
Even though we arrived the evening before, we just made the session on time. We mentioned earlier that time is always an issue with Jacob. His anxiety can be so crippling that we cannot get him out of bed in the morning.
This is more than having to drag an overtired youngster out of bed. He needs to process information when he wakes up and then can be plagued by thoughts and anxieties, which makes it impossible to do (we sometimes have to sit and talk to him for hours at a time, going through his anxieties and trying to coax him out of bed when things are bad).
There are days when he can’t make it out of bed until evening dinnertime. So when you see us arriving at a game fashionably late and just in time for kick-off, we may well have had a real struggle getting up and away that day.
Jacob is always aware of being late, something that was always a bone of contention during his school and college days, so he is extra-sensitive about it. And in the morning as we checked out of the hotel, we knew that the panic of getting out on time to the training session would leave Jacob anxious.
We made our way to the training grounds. Last time we got lost and walked in on some club called AC Monaco (whoever they are) but this time Norwich were the only team training.
We sat in a newly-constructed portable stand (which looked like a mobile unit you might see at a festival), but it was pretty swish; the upper stand had padded seats with drinks holders and was behind glass, and there were lower tiers of seating that were open to the elements. We took our seats in the upper tier as the weather, having been pretty warm, had taken a cooler turn.
Throughout the trip, we were making comparisons from the time we were there last year, and at the training session, the change of status to Premier League was most apparent. Daniel was already out on the field being interviewed by German TV when we arrived, as Sky Sports Germany had come to get an interview with him.
He did a couple of interviews, and Sky Sports were also talking to the fans that had turned up. The training session itself did not seem as intense compared to the one we saw last year – we remembered lots of strenuous workouts with medicine balls, ropes and lots of torture equipment in 30-degree heat.
This time the Under-21s played a match and the training for the first-team seemed different in nature, lots of stretching reminiscent of a pilates class. At one point the players were laid out in a circle, and Daniel seemed to be doing the rounds, going around and putting his foot on the odd player. It looked bizarrely like he was treading on the players, which is obviously some kind of training technique but looked to us like a gentle form of torture (or coercion!).
Delia and Michael had also arrived to observe the training session and chat to fans, some of whom had turned up on Tuesday hoping to catch the game against Paderborn that had been called off. We later learned that there had been a behind closed doors game that day, but the fans who had travelled didn’t know about it, so ironically we were all in town (or thereabouts) for the game but didn’t know it. We were at the hotel and had missed it too!
After about an hour we were invited onto the pitch to mingle with the players. Unfortunately, it was at this point that Jacob’s anxiety seemed to increase and so he had to go for a walk to calm down. We really wanted him to get a photo with Teemu (and Teemu the player) and had asked if we would be able to do this.
Sharon was holding Teemu (canine variety) at the time that his namesake came for the photo op, and so she got THAT photo instead. Jacob was then able to come back and now in better spirits, he was able to join in on the interview we had with Sky Sports Germany.
They were fascinated (and impressed) with the “Farke Flag”, aka the Here Comes Norwich flag, which we take with us to all games and the On the Stall City stall. We then got to chat to Grant Hanley and Sam Byram, who spoke to us for a long time about coming to Norwich and settling in. We told him he should move to Cringleford as he’ll have good neighbours there (but barky ones… ahem!)
After the training session, we had a final walk around the grounds, which were really lovely and had a very relaxing feel. We saw a little bridge over a stream just outside the Sports hotel – We called it the “Bridge of Signings” as we recognised it as the location chosen by the club to do their videos of the players whose signings had been announced during that week. We did our own video of Teemu being pushed over the bridge in his buggy (er… yes, this dog even has a buggy to be pushed around in.)
We went back to the van, bracing ourselves for another series of roadworks on the journey back to our holiday base, and we were delighted to see Stuart Webber come over to talk to us. We were amazed he’d take the time to come over to chat, especially as he was running late and would get fined if he was late for lunch (yes, really!).
Having had a chat with him, we picked a tick off Teemu’s head (ugh) which he had picked up from dozing under the van, and we then made our way back, in anticipation of the final game on Friday.
The next day we found Teemu (canine had really made the grade and had usurped his owner. His photo with Sharon had made the EDP and was captioned: “Teemu Pukki of Norwich meets Teemu the dog”.