I lay back in the Jacuzzi deciding whether to try the sea bass for lunch or give the lamb curry a go. Afterwards maybe a sauna and a swim, use the fantastic gym or try the outdoor jogging trail. So where am I? Champney’s Centre Parcs? Not even close! I am at Everton’s fantastic training ground in Halewood!
First off though let me just qualify a few points – it’s NOT a holiday camp but a place where Everton train very hard every day and you shouldn’t swim on a full stomach! It does however provide a world class facility for the players and it makes me smile when I think back to the early eighties and recall Blackburn Rovers' training venue aka Witton Park or as it was referred to by us - dog (I’ll let you fill in the gap) corner!
Back in those days we would report to Ewood Park at 10am, get changed, then get back in our cars (mine was a Capri!) and drive to the park. Boss Bob Saxton would already be there, marking out the least muddy area with white tape and sticking in a few poles for goals! Training then consisted of a long run through the park as a warm up before attempting to cover yourself in as much mud as possible and then getting back in your pride and joy to drive back to Ewood Park!
Sometimes on particularly bad days in winter with pools of water round your boots, the wind howling and the River Darwen close to bursting its banks, ‘Sacko’ would turn to me and say: “I tell you what Baz, we are the only team in the country training outside today!.” But it wasn’t said by way of apology, no, but with a kind of pride in our ability and willingness to suffer!
Rumour has it that so impressed with these facilities was a certain Alan Shearer that he was persuaded to sign for the club after a tour of Witton Park! That was then and this is now and of course it’s much better today with these facilities and so to sum up the difference between then and now as I relax in the Jacuzzi? Well I’m still getting wet every day it’s just that the water’s warmer!