Patrick McLaughlin outside the leaning tower of Pisa

Friday, February 25, 2011

It was an early start this morning for a recovery session on the beach just a few hundred yards from our hotel. The purpose of those sessions is to get over the last game and begin to prepare your body for the next one, so we had a light jog and some stretches in order to recuperate a little bit and get our legs feeling fresher. It's just what we usually do at the club, except in a different environment.

As has been the case since we arrived in Tuscany - apart from the first night - the sun was out, but it was actually quite cold at that time of the morning and so, despite the clear blue sky, we were treated to the odd sight of Jeff Henderson wrapped up like the Michelin Man on an Italian beach!

But despite the breeze, it was a nice way to get the game out of our legs. It's quite a novelty to train on a beach - but then again, with the pitch we played on yesterday, we were more of less used to it! I think it was easier to run on the beach, and there was about the same amount of sand...

Richard Akenhead, our sports scientist, led the session. He's a good lad and he likes to get the banter going while we're going through our routines, so it was good fun.

After lunch, every member of the party who's out here went for a bit of sightseeing in Pisa. We took in the famous leaning tower, and it was nice to see that. It's quite amazing really just to marvel at how it doesn't fall over. The lads were all getting pictures taken and stuff like that and it's one of those things you have to do if you get the opportunity.

We're staying less than an hour away so it was a great chance to go and see it. We spent a good three hours in the shadow of the tower, enjoying the hustle and bustle of the Piazza del Duomo, and also paid a visit to the Cathedral. That was magnificent in itself, because some of the architecture was unbelievable.

The detail on the marblework, some of the paintings on the walls and the structure had to be seen to be believed. It's crazy to think that it was built more than 900 years ago. It must have taken an unimaginable amount of work with the equipment available in those days and it was quite awe-inspiring that something could be built to such a scale so many years ago and still stand almost unaltered to this day.

Haris Vuckic tries to prop up the leaning tower of Pisa

Of course, we've come out here to play football but it's a real bonus to be able to take in some culture and to see some of those things for yourself that you hear people talking about.

Hundreds of people were walking about and you could hear many different languages and accents; American, Dutch, Spanish, you name it. People come from all over the world to see these things so it's a real priviledge to be able to experience it while playing football.

But despite all that, it is football that remains the focus for our trip and we've got a massive game tomorrow afternoon against Lecce.

We want to finish the group strongly. If, as may be the case, we fail to qualify for the knockout stages, we certainly don't want to be going home with one point or two points.

We want to be finishing as high up as we can and give ourselves the best chance possible of making it through against the odds. You never know what could happen - luck could be on our side, results could go our way, and if we can win tomorrow and score a few goals in the process, we could yet find ourselves in the last 16.