UK Tour Day 4 2014-04-19 22:00:00



What a special and truly memorable day!


We did not have a game today. The team we were supposed to play pulled out and it was not possible to arrange another fixture at such short notice. A day off would do us no harm.


Early on there were a few fellas going around in quiet contemplation, apparently deep in considered reflection listening to their headphones. It is not that they are anti-social or anything.


No. They were preparing for a forfeit. These lads wore the wrong gear to the match yesterday and so face a forfeit to be decided by the rest of the players. They decided that the offenders should learn off and sing a song in front of everyone else. Matthew picked out the songs and gave them to the players last night and so these players were busy learning their lines in anticipation of the Gala Performance later this evening.


After breakfast it was intended that we would go swimming but that did not happen. The hotel would not let us all in together. They wanted us to go in in three’s and four’s! They could have told us that when we arrived and a first black mark for the hotel.


Instead we hit the nearby shops. Sports Direct was the first call followed by JD Sports and most did good business and were happy with their bargains.


Then it was back to the Hotel to change into our finest then off for dinner (which was great) and then the highlight of the trip.


It was organised that Ireland and Wigan player James McClean would come visit us.


James arrived in the best car any of us had ever seen. Wow!


He came in and spoke to us about how he had made it to first Sunderland and then Wigan. He spoke about the hard work, dedication and sacrifices made by him to realise his ambitions. He spoke brilliantly about his life as a footballer and then answered loads of questions from the lads. The questions were great but James was brilliant. He answered all the questions and gave great time to us all. Brian had the best question with his “Trappatoni or O’Neill?”


James then signed autographs, jerseys, and countless pieces of paper and stood in any number of photographs. He gave generously of his time and was an absolute credit to his sport. He could not have done more. He engaged magnificently with all the lads who loved every single second of it. He had particular time for his fellow Irish international Heather and he stood in a great photo with Heather with her Irish cap and jersey.


He then stood in for more photos and a Group photo with all the lads before departing in that fantastic car.


This was easily the highlight of the Tour. James McClean was an inspiration.


Fair dues to him for taking the time and trouble to come visit with us and particularly when he is so busy with a game yesterday, training today and another big game on Monday. It says a lot about the man that he would go to that trouble and the manner in which he carried himself impressed everybody. He did not have to do any of this but the fact that he did made this the outstanding highlight of this trip.


Thank you James McClean.


How do you follow that?


Well, we were in our best so took the opportunity for a Group photo in front of the Reebok Stadium. Then we went into Bolton to go swimming. That was great fun surpassed only by Jason trying and repeatedly failing to wash shampoo out of his hair. It seemed that the more he washed the more shampoo appeared almost as if out of nowhere! It was hilarious!


The trip back to the hotel was hysterical and mighty craic with blaring music and flashing lights. (You had to be there). The mood could not be better.


Then we were down for dinner. Then we went for a walk having a team meeting en route in the glorious evening sunshine. There was even time for a few practical jokes. Frankly it is hard to imagine a happier group anywhere.


This really was a most special day.


The only downside of the day was that Sher had to leave us to return to his work in Scotland. We will miss Sher. But most of all we will miss his ongoing debate with Stephen as to whether humans are mammals! That ongoing exchange of views has enthralled the rest of us for the last four days!  Safe journey Sher!


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