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Plenty of hard work on day one

It’s bright and early on Friday morning and the players are back at Failand – their office for the next ten months.

The keenest arrivals pull into the car park from around 8.30am and continue to file in for the next 45 minutes, including skipper Aaron Wilbraham, whose future remains unresolved.

Straightaway there is new training kit to be collected and gym tests to be done. Each member of the squad has their body fat measured and completes a high intensity cycling test to get the legs pumping.

It hasn’t been plain sailing since signing off from Ashton Gate on May 7th. The team were given a two-week downtime period but spent the rest of the off-season having to fulfil certain fitness requirements that have been monitored by the sports science team over the summer.

After breakfast and with the clock now at 10am, the players are called to a meeting in the canteen as Lee Johnson delivers his first message to the group of 2017/18 – less a tactical discussion, more outlining his expectations for the rest of the summer and beyond.


The session is to start at 11.15am sharp and lateness won’t be tolerated, so the players jog down from the dressing room to the pitch together as one.

After another brief chat with the coaching staff, it’s straight into the thick of it as head of fitness and conditioning Rhys Carr puts the squad through their paces.

What begins as a gentle warm-up gradually increases in intensity. Sprint tests start off as a trial of pure straight line speed before changes of direction are introduced.

Players must ensure their foot touches the line at each end of the test before they turn sharply and head back the other way.

Lloyd Kelly and Diego De Girolamo do battle

Shawn McCoulsky proves the man to beat; Scott Golbourne switches to studs to ensure he doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Tin Plavotic, who struggles to stay on his feet, while Jonny Smith incurs the wrath of his team-mates for cutting corners.

From speed to endurance, as the unforgiving 12-minute test is next on the agenda. The rules are simple; as many laps of the pitch as you can in 720 seconds – whoever runs the furthest wins.

Setting the standard by quite some distance are Golbourne and Marlon Pack, who start quickly and get quicker. Only in the closing stages does the Bristolian defender pull away to prove he’s kept himself in tiptop condition. Pretty impressive stuff for day one.


After a well-earned drinks break comes the reward – the balls are out and the players are reacquainted with their favourite accessory.

There are the initial first-touch and passing drills before the group are separated into teams for a more competitive workout.

New signing Eros Pisano, welcomed by fellow Italian speaker Milan Djuric, is flying into the tackles and Johnson likes what he sees from the feisty defender.

After training comes the press duties. BBC Points West, ITV West Country, Sky Sports News HD, Made In Bristol TV, BBC Radio Bristol and The Post have all been given free rein to film as they please to this point, as well as our very own BCTV, of course.

This means seven interview requests for Johnson to fulfil along with Pack and Korey Smith, who is loving being able to join in with the rest of the squad, having played catch-up for much of pre-season last year.

Jamie Paterson and Josh Brownhill – two of City’s best performers in the spring – are also happy to discuss their summer breaks and hopes for the new campaign in exclusive chats for BCTV.


An already busy training pitch was still lacking a number of familiar faces. All of City’s international players have been granted an extended period of rest, so no Hordur Magnusson, Callum O’Dowda, Bailey Wright and club-record signing Famara Diedhiou, who must wait to meet his new team-mates.

Elsewhere, Wilbraham was absent from training with contract negotiations ongoing, while Gary O’Neil and Matty Taylor are nursing minor injuries.

With the rest of the group already showering and tucking into their lunch, Pack and Smith need at least another 20 minutes to complete their media duties.

By now the time is ticking past 1.30pm, which still leaves plenty of time for food before one final meeting at 3pm, this time at Ashton Gate.

That brings to a close day one. The players will report back for more training tomorrow – good thing they’re used to working on Saturdays, eh?

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