A week in my life @ SPFC

For those who missed this blog post – it was originally released via @coachingfamily on 20/02/17


You join me at the start of a long and very eventful week. Over the next seven days, we will play three games and my family will have arrived in Sao Paulo to live. The experience I am having in Brazil is outstanding, I already feel more developed as a coach for living in this environment for the past two months.

 Sunday 12th February 2017


Link to matchday highlights/behind scenes

Match highlights

Today is our first home game. 50,000 fans are expected in Estadio Morumbi for the first game of Rogerio Ceni as Manager. After over 24 years and 1250 games (and 131 goals as a goalkeeper) the idol of the club is returning and the fans are incredibly excited. We have played two previous games and had mixed results with one defeat and one win – albeit our win was in the Copa Do Brazil and therefore, we are under a bit of pressure from the media.

We depart the training ground via the team bus in beautiful sunshine only to hit the afternoon rainstorms on our travels (when it rains in Sao Paulo its so hard that it literally stops people going out). What happens next is incredible, and even more so due to the  thunderstorms. As we come down the hill and approach the stadium, we have fans on each sides of the road waving and whistling their support, then as we reach the roundabout outside the stadium there is around 30,000 fans waiting for us. Unbelievable singing meet us, flags, drums and smoke bombs, This is something that I have seen on the Internet and been told about, but to experience it live is amazing and shows what a huge club I am now part of.

The game starts well, the energy inside the stadium has been transferred to the team and we dominate possession with continued attacks. Then disaster strikes as a counter attack leads to us conceding on the very first shot of Ponte Preta.

For a moment, we lose our composure and we need something to help us regain our rhythm. A deflected pass falls kindly for Gilberto who strides clear and shoots across the goalkeeper, the keeper makes the save but Cueva (our little Peruvian magician) arrives to stab home the rebound and the crowd erupts…

“It’s hard to express how beautiful a moment that is – with 50,000 fans jumping up and down in celebration –  but I can tell you its very special”

We then score again, Cueva to Gilberto and its 2-1. At half time, we have turned the game around and deservedly lead.

The second half begins how the first half finished and we now look confident. The rotation of our formation is key as we create three central defenders in attack and force the opposition backwards with our wing backs and wingers on each side of the pitch.

A fantastic goal from Tiago Mendes, bent into the top corner with his left foot, gives us a 3-1 lead and then immediately a fantastic dribble from Araujo (beating two defenders) creates an assist for Gilberto to make the score 4-1. The crowd are now in full song and within 5 minutes we make it 5-1 with Gilberto scoring a simple tap in from a corner (for his hat-trick).

Not even a sloppy consolation goal from Ponte Preta to make it 5-2 can spoil our afternoon. We have won, the team has played well, Rogerio has a win on his opening home game as manager and 50,000 fans are going home with confidence in the team.

As you can imagine, the changing room after the game is one of celebration and everyone is extremely happy. We have a special guest in the form of Felipe Massa, the formula one driver, who is a personal friend of Rogerio. We spend five minutes chatting and then have a photograph together. All round it has been another top day and experience for me.

sp1Monday 13th February

Today is a relaxed day for me. As always, we like to give the players a morning off after a game and report late in the afternoon for a recovery session (starters) and a technical session (subs). Therefore, I go for a long walk in the city.

I start on Avenue Reboucas and walk along Faria Lima to Iguatemi Mall (which has all the biggest brands in the world Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton etc under one roof). I stop for a quick sandwich and drink before continuing along Rua Augusta to Jardins. Jardins is an upscale part of Sao Paulo with lovely restaurants and a “European” style shopping street named Oscar Freire

I arrive back at the training centre in time to plan training with Rogerio. Today we will do some tactical 6v6 games based on quick combination play and then some finishing exercises linked to our formation.

After training, we sit to watch some clips of Santos and how we should approach the game. From what I can see and already know, they are a very good team and Wednesday is going to be a huge test for us.

Around 8.30pm, Me and Charles go for a meal in the city centre. A restaurant called Brown Sugar where we can sit outside on the terrace and enjoy the warm evening. Me and Charles are close, two foreigners working in Brasil and he is extremely important for me as he helps me in the training pitch to translate to the players when I am unable to communicate clearly. With simple instructions, I am fine and I have built strong relationships with a number of the players and the staff. But, for more complex things he is a perfect fit for me as he is able to communicate my feelings. Tonight, dinner and some caipirinha’s are on me as a way of saying thank you and to celebrate our new lives here in Brasil.

Tuesday 14th February

I have the morning off as we are going to train in the evening and then the team will make the 70km trip to Santos and stay overnight in preparation for the first “Classico” of the season (we have three main derbies in Sao Paulo against Santos, Corinthians and Palmeiras).

The clubs driver collects me at 9am and takes me to my new house which is about 20km outside of Sao Paulo city. I arrive and meet the owner of the house before heading to the local shopping centre to buy gifts for the family who will start their 15 hour journey from Liverpool to Sao Paulo this evening.

In the afternoon, I arrive to the training ground at 2pm and prepare for training with Rogerio, Charles and Pintado.

The game with Santos will be our 4th game in 11 days and therefore we need to be very careful with the content of the session. We need to do enough to prepare them mentally and tactically whilst also making sure we don’t negatively impact on the players energy levels.

We make a short and fun circuit of Head Tennis, Hand Ball and first touch games, followed by 15 minutes of team shape and set plays. As always, the guys not involved in the squad and subs make additional exercises at the end of the session. Today its 1v1s in the form of attackers v defenders and is led by Rogerio who puts on an excellent practice.

After training, we have a team meal and then a meeting on Santos and their style of play before the team heads off to Santos and the hotel without me. I have a big day tomorrow as my family arrives at 7.30am and I am staying behind to collect them. I will join the team in the afternoon.


Wednesday 15th February 



Match Highlights

The day starts with my alarm ringing at 6am. Usually Im not a morning person and I struggle to get up at the best of times. Not today though, as after six weeks without my family, they are finally arriving in Brazil.

The club driver, Elias takes me to the airport and we arrive at 7.30am only to wait over an hour for my family to collect their bags and come out. Ever the romantic, I have bought a terrible rose and chocolate collection from the little airport shop for Roxanne as a late Valentines present and a bag full of goodies for the boys. I am quite emotional to see them. The six weeks has been tough with Henry and Mason who are just two and four years old.

The journey to our new home takes around 1hr and 20 minutes (in the morning traffic) and we arrive at the house around 10am. Immediately, the boys get changed and are in the swimming pool, while Roxanne inspects the house and unpacks the bags.

We then take lunch before I have to depart for the training ground. I arrive at 2.55pm and at 3pm join other staff on a mini van to Santos. The journey should take just over an hour but the traffic and winding road to Santos is long and slow and it actually takes near to 2hr 30mins. This combined with the intense heat is the finisher of my energy levels. I snooze for the last 30 minutes (not before seeing the amazing views as you go up and down the mountains to reach the beach and city of santos) and we arrive at the hotel in time for the 6pm pre match meal.

The team meeting takes place at 7.30pm and we focus strongly on trying to control certain areas of the pitch when defending and then utilising our midfield and rotation of formation when attacking. The players look extremely focused and ready for the game.

I have a huge respect for Santos as a team and believe they have an excellent style of play, which shows their coach Dorival Jnr in a very good light.

We arrive at the stadium around 8.30pm and what is surprising is how small the stadium is and compact compared to the other stadiums we have played in. It has the feeling of the old Boleyn Ground (West Ham) as the fans are close to the pitch and the atmosphere is very hostile due to a ban on away fans for this game.

The game is a huge success for us and our first win in Santos for seven years. However, we didn’t make a good start and found ourselves 0-1 early in the game with the Santos players and crowd making things difficult for us. However, slowly our midfielders got a grip on the game and began to dominate possession through Schmidt, Mendes, Cicero and Cueva. After winning and converting a penalty we entered the half time break happy with the score at 1-1

At half time, we make a change and bring the speed of Araujo into the game and rotate our three forwards to create a 433 formation. We start the second half extremely well and dominate both possession and transition with short/fast counter pressing to regain the ball. In fact, this is how we score our second goal as we counter press the Santos playmaker, Lucas Lima and steal the ball on the half way line with space to exploit behind the defence. A Great pass sends Araujo clear and he rounds the goalkeeper to put us 2-1 in front.


The next 30 minutes of the game are fantastic as both teams play at their absolute maximum. Our Goalkeeper Sidao makes an outstanding save from a header and within a flash we score our 3rd and the games decisive goal. This goal is very pleasing as another sub and youth product, Araruna turns to play a wonderful through pass to Cueva who spins passed two defenders in the box and slides the ball to the left for Araujo to drive low across the goalkeeper and into the bottom corner. What a feeling!!

In truth, we had another great opportunity with Gilberto 1v1 with the goalkeeper but his shot is blocked for a corner.

Overall – tonight is one of the most satisfying moments I’ve had in football. Without doubt, Its my best day in Brasil, with my family arriving in the morning and then playing and winning at Santos in the evening. A perfect day!!

We arrive back at the training ground for 2am and I take an uber home to Roxanne and the boys. Life is good.

Thursday 16th February

I wake up to the boys jumping on me. Ive missed this so much, we take a quick swim and then have breakfast together.

Its wonderful to have my family here with me. After last nights result and my family arriving, I feel more secure and at home in Sao Paulo.

After breakfast, I take the family to the local shopping mall, in Brazil the shopping malls are excellent and often have both cinemas and supermarkets connected to them. The boys have some spending money from home and they use it to buy fancy dress outfits and some small cars.

After a couple of hours, I drop the family back to our house and then continue in the taxi to work. Today, we report at 4pm for a 5pm session. On arrival at the training centre you can feel that everyone is still on a big buzz from the night before. Football clubs are great places to be on these types of days as you can feel the confidence and energy that everyone has in this moment.

The players who started the game will do a recovery session in the gym and then a pool session while the 12 players and 2 goalkeepers who didn’t play or played less than 45 minutes will train.

We start with a 4v4v4 possession game and continue into some small sided games for a total session of 45 minutes. The boys are flying in training and the quality is very high. Our new signing, Jucilei joins the group for the first time in a technical session and he looks to be a very good player. Technically and physically very strong. The addition of him and our new number 9, Lucas Pratto, gives us a big boost in terms of quality and experience.

After the training, I take a quick dinner in the restaurant and then sit with the analyst staff and Rogerio to watch the videos of our next opponents – Mirassol. Like the majority of teams in Brasil, they play with a classic 4231 formation and the team is very much focused around the number 10. He is a very good player and similar to the last game, he is a number 10 with a fantastic left foot and is the inspiration for the team. Mirassol have started the Paulista championship in fantastic form and have won all three games so far this season. They will arrive in Morumbi in high confidence.

I arrive home to find everyone asleep. Its only 9pm, but the previous days travelling has knocked it out of Roxanne and the boys. Therefore, I sit up for a couple of hours writing some session plans and ideas for the coming days.

Friday 17th February

A late start for the team enables me to spend some much needed time at home with my wife Roxanne and the boys. We spend the morning relaxing in the garden and I enjoy swimming with the boys and using the trampoline. Then we tackle Carrefour, the French supermarket that has branches across Sao Paulo.

I then go to rent a car as now that the family have arrived its essential that I can get them from A to B. Where we live there is a park opposite our house but no shops within walking distance and with the heat, walking isn’t advised for the pale skin of the four “Gringos”.

I depart for the training ground around 3pm. The players are reporting at 5pm for a 6pm training session. However, I have greatly under estimated the Friday afternoon traffic and it takes me 90 minutes to travel 18 miles on the motorway to our training ground. The traffic is the only thing I do not like about Sao Paulo. It is a city that has wonderful restaurants, parks and of course the weather isn’t too shabby!,

I arrive around 4.30pm and go straight into the staff meeting to confirm our ideas for the starting team and game tomorrow. The meeting is very relaxed and we decide to meet with the players before training to “scene set” the style of Mirassol and how we want to approach the game tactically the next day. This process works excellently as it gives the players clarity on what is expected and then the training that follows is much clearer and precise.


In training, we make some fun rondos and team races before 15-20 minutes of 11v11 shape and set plays. There is no need for more as we only played two days ago. The subs then make 4v4v4 round robin games followed by some simple crossing and finishing exercises.

After training, the players eat dinner together at 8pm and then stay in the bedrooms at the training centre overnight. This is something that we do before every game and the players accept this as a natural part of their preparation.

Saturday 18th February


Match Highlights

I wake up to find that both boys have crept into our bed in the evening, but I love this part of being a dad. We grab breakfast by trying out some new fruit (the fruit here in Brazil is outstanding) and also enjoy some eggs and bacon. The boys are enjoying every minute here and Skype my parents to tell them about the “adventures” they are having in Brazil.

I arrive at the training centre for 2pm and have time to create some new session plans before we have our pre match meal at 4pm followed by the team meeting at 4.45pm. We then depart for the stadium at 5.30pm to arrive at Estadio Morumbi for 6pm.

It’s a beautiful evening in Sao Paulo and although today marks the end of the summertime, we have gone 5 days without any rain and the weather is excellent as per usual.

The game starts well for us and in particular for our new signing Lucas Pratto who opens the scoring with an excellent header within the first ten minutes. We then have some big moments to extend our lead – but –  we are very wasteful with our final pass or shot after some very good build up play. We accept the 1-0 at half time, but know that we are capable of much more.

The second half starts scrappily and Mirassol have a goal disallowed before we increase our lead though Rodrigo Caio (our Brazilian international centre defender) who heads home from 8 yards.

From this point, we should have gone on and won the game comfortably. However, we made the game difficult for ourselves by giving away a simple goal to an individual error. Now the momentum of the game has changed and we found ourselves in a game of endless counter defending and counter attacking. This is poor and something we must improve on. We have to play with more intelligence and less emotion in these moments of the game.

In fact, we had a goal disallowed before disaster strikes in the 3rd minute of added time. We defend poor out wide and are beaten too easily in a 1v1 situation. The Mirassol full back has time to cross to the far post where the ball is bundled into our goal. We barely have time to kick off before the referee blows to end the game. A hugely disappointing result for us.

So – I end this weekly blog or insight into my new life in Brasil on a low point. This game was over after 75 minutes but somehow we have managed to chew up the result and give away two valuable points.

However, this is football and at the moment we are four games unbeaten and having scored 11 goals in these games. We have some key players missing and due to return to the team in the coming days. Therefore, I prefer to focus on the positives.

The highs and lows in football are huge. This week has given us three games, two wins and a draw. If you add – a move into a new home and my family arriving safely in Sao Paulo – then you could say I’ve had a decent week.

Roll on the next one!!



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