Football clubs’ training grounds are an eerie place to be over the close season.For ten months of the year, Derby County’s Training Centre is a hive of activity with players and staff going about their daily jobs.
Whether it’s in the corridors, changing rooms, gym or even the canteen, there’s a real buzz around the Rams’ impressive training facility.
So, when it comes to the close season, there’s a completely different feel.
Derby’s 2016/17 campaign concluded last week and, with players and staff away on their holidays, the Training Centre currently represents something of a ghost town.
Various members of staff, of course, remain in situ as planning and preparation continues to gather pace.
Pre-season fitness plans, training sessions, matches and, of course, summer transfer activity is high on the priority list for manager Gary Rowett right now.
But, the feel isn’t quite the same. The long corridors are silent, the atmosphere isn’t quite the same and the canteen, for the most part, remains deserted.
What about the changing rooms? George Thorne will be able to testify that they are a pretty lonely and tranquil place to be right now!
He made that point on his Instagram account last week, posting a ‘story’ on his timeline of the empty changing room.
The 24-year-old midfielder sustained a broken leg on the final day of Derby’s regular 2015/16 season last May against Ipswich Town, which forced him to miss the whole of the 2016/17 campaign.
That’s because his road to recovery has been a bumpy one, due to some complications along the way, but he’s now in a good place and in a positive frame of mind.
So, while the rest of his team-mates are away enjoying some family time, Thorne – with no complaints – is in the unfamiliarly quiet environment of the Training Centre on a daily basis stepping up his fitness.
It was a year ago on 7th May that he sustained the leg break but he isn’t looking back; his eyes are now firmly set on the future and getting back to doing what he loves most – playing football.
“It has been a tough year but I’m in a good place now,” Thorne told RamsTV.
“I am doing my fitness work and feeling good. This summer is about me working hard and getting myself ready for pre-season.
“For me, I am itching to keep doing more. I have spent a lot of time sitting around so it’s good to be outside working, which I have been for a while now.
“I feel very good and I am in the conditioning stage, which means a lot of cardio work and getting my fitness levels up and beyond where they need to be for pre-season.
“Mentally you do need a break as well and I do have a couple of family weddings over the summer, but for the majority of the time I will be in and working.
“I don’t mind; I’ve been sitting around for that long and it will get me ready to go.”
Importantly, next month, Thorne will be taking in a change of scenery.
As basic as it sounds, changing the working environment after frustrating year on the sidelines can provide an instrumental boost.
So, in the lead-up to the players returning for pre-season training at the end of June, Thorne will be heading to Spain for a training camp to up his fitness levels even more.
He is expecting the trip to be beneficial, not only for his conditioning but also his mental frame of mind.
He said: “The training camp in Spain is about getting myself in a very good position for the pre-season return date.
“It is a chance for me to get myself back to a good condition. I know I will be playing catch-up with the lads from this season, so it will be a change of scenery to help me along the way.
“I think that will help mentally, as well as the sunshine. In the grand scheme of things, it’s about doing whatever I can to be ready for pre-season.”
When pre-season comes around, Thorne has set his sights on being ready to go from the first day the squad report back.
Naturally, that will be dependent on his progression over the course of the next six to seven weeks, but it’s a target he clearly feels he can achieve.
He said: “I expect to be in a position to complete a full pre-season by the time we return - and I hope I can available and ready to go for the start of the season.
“It would be a major achievement to be in that position, although I try not to think about it too much.
“I am looking forward to pre-season and being in the group, working hard.
“I am sure two weeks into pre-season I might give you a different interview, but I am looking forward to it.”
Light is very much at the end of what has been a pretty dark tunnel for Thorne. In the meantime, he might want to enjoy that peace and quiet!
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