Life As A Footballer: Overnight Stays At Hotels

When teams have away games that require a long drive, teams will stay in a hotel the night before the game. So what does an overnight stay in a hotel look like as a professional footballer?


An overnight stay is to ensure that players have the best preparation for the game.

There are 3 ways that clubs will travel to away games:

  • Coach
  • Train
  • Plane

Most will choose to go by coach, especially if an overnight stay is required. Clubs higher up the leagues may opt for a train journey or even a flight but it’s not just clubs at the top who choose to fly and get train, I know of teams in non-league who also prefer to travel by plane and train.

Some clubs are able to travel by train or plane and stay in a hotel overnight because that is the best option for the players when it comes to preparing right for the game. Hours sitting on a coach on the day of a game isn’t ideal preparation, however, for some clubs that is the only viable option.

A coach journey and hotel stay is often the way most teams will travel for away games. Overnight stays come at a cost to the clubs, so whilst it is predominantly about what is the best preparation for the game, further down the leagues the decision on travel is sometimes for financial reasons too.

Most clubs opt to travel by coach. Photo by Richard Blaxall

Journey to hotel

Teams will either train in the morning before setting off, or on the way to the hotel. Every team will do it differently and whilst some prefer to train before travelling, some prefer to stop during the journey to have a training session, before continuing the journey to the hotel.

Sometimes there will be ‘meet points’ for the coach. These meet points will normally be service stations en route, or convenient places for the coach to pull over and pick players and staff up. Players don’t always live close to the club so a meet point takes away the inconvenience of travelling further than needed to meet the coach.


Travelling around the country means that there are long periods of time spent sitting down. Players will fill the time travelling doing various things:

  • Playing cards
  • Watching films and series’
  • Sleeping
  • Studying

Depending on traffic and the location of the game, coach journeys can take a lot longer than expected. I’ve had away trips where we have left at 10 am and not arrived until 8 pm due to bad traffic.

Arrival

Once at the hotel, players will head off to their rooms with their roommate before having to be down for dinner. Depending on the time of arrival, players have a few hours to chill out in their rooms before dinner.

That window of time is spent doing similar things to the coach journey but now the Playstation or Xbox make their appearances. One thing that is never forgotten on an overnight trip.. (no it’s not a toothbrush), is the game console. Players spend hours on away trips playing against each other in our rooms.

Occasionally teams will opt to have a session in the pool or gym at the hotel to loosen up the body after being sat for so long.

Once at the hotel, I like to relax and chill out before dinner, so I normally watch a TV series on my laptop.

Arriving at AFC Fylde after an overnight stay. Photo by Tom Mulholland

Dinner

Dinner will be in a room assigned to the club, which is often away from the hotel restaurant. The food varies but the following is normally on the menu for most clubs:

  • Protein options: Chicken/salmon/spag bol
  • Carbohydrate options: Pasta/rice/sweet potato
  • Vegetables/salad
  • Soup
  • Bread rolls

A dessert will follow and there is always a mad dash when the hotel staff bring it out. Examples of some desserts served with ice cream or hot custard:

  • Fruit crumble
  • Rice pudding
  • Bread pudding
  • Brownie

My personal favourite is apple crumble with custard but if you’re not quick you’ll end up with just hot apple! Some players scrape the crumble off of the top and have that with ice cream or hot custard.

The thought of players tucking into sweet treats the eve before a game may sound unprofessional but most clubs will choose to have a dessert option available.

I remember seeing a story when Ronaldo rejoined Manchester United. On the first overnight stay, no one went up for dessert because Ronaldo didn’t. I imagined everyone sitting there waiting for the first person to make their move before the rest followed.

It isn’t just Ronaldo who doesn’t indulge in dessert though, there are many who refrain and prefer to stay clear of it the night before a game.

Initiation song

If there is anyone on their first overnight trip with the team, this is the moment that we all dread. After everyone has finished dinner, a glass will be tapped with some cutlery to get the rooms attention. This sound signals one of the many traditions within football; an initiation song that has to be sung in front of the travelling party.

It is normally a verse and the chorus of any song the player would like to sing but some get so into the performance they end up doing longer. This is an unbelievably cringey few moments for most, as you can probably imagine.

We can choose not to sing, however, there is a fine that has to be paid if we refuse and that varies by club and is always a steep amount of money.

Initiation songs aren’t just for the players, staff have to sing on their first overnight trips and even the coach driver doesn’t get away with it! The only person who never sings is the gaffer.

Downtime

Sometimes after dinner, there will be a meeting about the game the next day but if there is no meeting then the rest of the evening is our time to chill out.

Some will head off to our rooms to chill out, some will go and play cards in the lobby, some will go to play the game console. Everyone has their own way of relaxing ahead of the game the next day.

We are entrusted to do what is right for our preparation and therefore there are no rules on sleep or times we have to be in our rooms, however, we are professionals who understand what is required!

A team walk on the morning of a game. Photo by Tom Mulholland

Morning of the game

The next time we will all be together is for a walk the next morning. Breakfast is normally optional, with some players preferring to only eat at pre-match, which is 3/4 hours before kick-off.

Before the pre-match meal, we will go for a brief 10/15 minute walk around the grounds of the hotel or the surrounding streets as a team. This is to stretch the legs and get the legs moving again ahead of the game.

After the walk, it’s straight into our pre-match meal where players will have their last meal before the game.

The options will normally be:

  • Pasta/rice/bread
  • Chicken/fish
  • Different variations of eggs
  • Baked beans
  • Vegetables/salad
  • Cereal
  • Yoghurts
  • Fruit

This is our final meal before the game and a final top-up without going overboard. Eating too much would leave us feeling heavy and lethargic come kick-off, as our body tries to digest the food.

With pre-match done, it’s back to our rooms to chill out for a little while before having to depart. Before we leave the hotel for the game we will have a team meeting. This is when we can find out the starting XI and also watch a final video on the opposition’s set-pieces, etc.

Meeting over, it’s time to check out and make our way onto the coach, with our bags, to set off for the game.


This has always been the way that overnight stays have gone in my career. I hope it gives you an insight into what happens on an overnight stay for most clubs.


Thankyou for reading my Fly On The Ball blog. Please make sure that you’re following on the socials and subscribed to the blog to keep up to date with everything related to Fly On The Ball.

Instagram: @flyontheball_

Twitter: alexwynter_

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s