Many would love to live a day in the shoes of a professional footballer. Unless you’re directly involved with football, it’s unlikely that you are aware of what our days can look like. So I want to give you an insight into what my day consists of on a normal training day during the season at Eastleigh FC.
This is when my alarm goes off and when I get out of bed. I get myself ready and changed into my training kit and then prepare a green tea and protein shake to drink on the journey.
I have a green tea for the health benefits that it provides and a protein shake because it prevents any hunger on the journey whilst also fuelling my body until breakfast.
You may wonder why I wear my training kit into training instead of getting changed once I have arrived. As you read on you’ll realise there isn’t much time for anything outside of my routine in the morning, so that is just one less thing I have to do before training starts.
I aim to be in the car and on the road by 6:50 am. My journey consists of a 160-mile round trip, which means 4 hours of being sat in the car a day- that’s without traffic.
This is something that I have been doing for most of my professional career. All of the clubs I have played for, except for Crystal Palace and Sutton United, have been a long distance from where I lived. So long distance travelling and time spent on the road has become the norm for me.
This isn’t something I would say I enjoy having to do but over the last few years, due to family reasons and other factors, it hasn’t been possible to move closer to clubs, meaning I have no other option than to travel daily.
I don’t have to drive the whole way to training by myself. I’m in a ‘car school’.
I meet a teammate about an hour into my journey and we take turns driving into training every day. If it is his turn to drive that day, I park my car at his house, jump in his car and then continue the journey.
We sometimes hit the rush hour traffic which can disrupt the journey, so the passenger is often the designated navigator as we try and dodge any unwanted delays.
9- 9:15 am
Once we are through the traffic and on the motorway, we arrive at the stadium between 9 o’clock and 9:15.
At Eastleigh, we get changed at the stadium but most football clubs will have a training ground where they do everything.
We have to be in the changing room before 9.15, arrive after that and you’ll be paying a fine for your bad timekeeping.
One player is assigned the ‘fine man’ title. This is just one of the many different roles carried out by players within a team and is a way to ensure that discipline is maintained.
It is then straight upstairs to where we eat, for breakfast. We have multiple options available to us and these include:
- Cereals (porridge, cornflakes, Weetabix etc)
- Eggs (boiled or scrambled)
- Baked Beans
- Fruit juices
- Hot drinks
A couple of slices of toast with two eggs is my preference.
After breakfast it’s straight down to the gym at the stadium, where I go through my pre-training warmup routine, this is called a prehab session. This takes about 25 minutes.
I go through this every day before training to make sure my body is prepared for the demands of training and to try and prevent injuries from occurring, especially after being sat in the car for 2 hours.
My prehab consists of exercises I have accumulated over the years from different physios and sports scientists at previous clubs.
Once I have finished my session, it’s straight into the physio room next door to get my ankle strapping applied by the club physio. I wear the strapping because of a previous ankle ligament injury and this provides my ankle with added support whilst training.
Ankle strapping applied and my body feeling as loose as is possible, it’s then back to the changing room to grab my boots and go out to training.
At Eastleigh, we are fortunate enough to have two different venues to train at, both less than a 5 minute walk from the stadium. There is the option of either a grass pitch or a 3G artificial pitch- which is something most clubs have access to now.
The weather determines where we train. The grass pitch is always the preferred choice but if this is waterlogged, we will go onto the 3G which is normally unaffected by any rain.
Training starts at 10 o’clock. If you’re late and not ready to go with your boots on, you can guess what is coming your way… that’s right, a fine!
We start with a warm up which may consist of:
- A jog
- Short and sharp sprints
Warmups are the bane of every footballer’s day. However they aren’t to be enjoyed, they are to get our bodies warm and ready to perform in training and prevent injuries.
The main part of a training session revolves around a series of different football drills. Although drills vary from day to day, all of the drills fall into one of the following categories:
Training typically lasts an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the day of the week and other circumstances like past or upcoming games.
I will go into more detail on a training schedule and what a training session can look like soon. So make sure you’re subscribed to the blog so that you don’t miss it!
So by now, the football session has normally finished and it’s time to head back to the changing room. If there isn’t a scheduled gym session and if no medical treatment is required from the physio, it’s time to have a shower before lunch.
The dirty kit is left in a wheelie bin in the changing room to be washed for the next day of training. We are lucky enough to have a kitman who washes and sets up all of our training kits for the next day of training. However, I have been at clubs before where the players are in charge of washing and looking after their own training kit.
Prior to training, I have limited spare time to play with outside of my routine, so now is when I take a moment to sit down and have a look at my phone, to check in on my family and catch up on anything I have missed that morning.
Showered and changed into some casual clothes I bring from home, it’s time to refuel. We are provided with breakfast and lunch at the club. We pay a small fee for this that comes out of our wages at the end of every month, the amount varies by club.
Lunch is freshly made by the chefs at the club and there is always:
- A carbohydrate option (e.g. pasta or rice)
- A protein option (e.g. chicken, fish, or red meat)
- Vegetables or salad
Dietary requirements are taken into consideration, with options for the players who require something different.
If there is no gym session that day, our day’s work at the club is finished. After I have finished my lunch and got my fresh training kit for the next day, it’s time to get in the car and drive home.
1 pm is a very early time to finish, this is one of the many perks of full-time football. However, there are clubs in non-league who are part-time, with a majority training in the evenings, after players and staff have finished their day job.
Without any traffic, I arrive home just before 3 o’clock. Getting home at this time is great because it allows me to join in on the school run. It’s always nice to be able to do the little things, like picking up my son from school.
I am fully aware that it is something I may not have the pleasure of doing if I didn’t play football for a living.
The rest of my afternoon consists of juggling two energetic boys and just like everyone else, I have house and family-related things that need taking care of as well.
It is hard to completely chill out once I am home from training, so when the boys are in bed and with the house in order, that is when I can finally relax and switch off for the day.
With the boys in bed, I spend my evening with my partner watching TV and enjoying the peace and quiet! The demands of football and the commute into training take their toll on my body and mind so I am shattered come the evening.
If I have training the next day I aim to be asleep by 10:30 because I know that sleep is one of the most important stages of recovery. Also, I know that with the long drive to training in the morning, I haven’t got the luxury of having a lie-in.
Once my head hits the pillow, it doesn’t normally take me long to fall asleep!!
So that is what a typical weekday looks like during the season for me. For others, it may differ slightly, but for most, this is how a day in the life of a footballer unfolds.