David Freezer: Winter is coming but there’s little for City to fear – with a little help from some Florida sunshine
PUBLISHED: 11:57 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:29 09 November 2018
Warm weather breaks have become common place in modern football but Norwich City will be breaking new ground when they head to the USA for the approaching international break.
In preparation for the long, hard Championship slog ahead Daniel Farke’s squad are fortunate enough to be heading across the pond to Florida, to enjoy some November sunshine.
The club took in the west coast of America during their 2013 pre-season tour during Chris Hughton’s reign but a mid-season break to such exotic climes is a rare treat.
Tampa will be the team’s home next week and thanks to City’s official destination partner, Visit Tampa Bay, I’m even more fortunate to be flying out to the US to report on the tour for the EDP, Evening News and Pinkun.com.
While some of that will be focused on fitness work, relaxation and team bonding for the players, the tour also represents a fine chance for the Canaries to represent the club in a country where football – proper football – really is taking off.
It faces tough competition in participation terms with baseball, basketball and American football so deep set in American culture, yet the Wayne Rooney boosted Major League Soccer (MLS) is really kicking on.
Atlanta United averaged over 53,000 this season, Seattle Sounders over 40,000 and Florida’s own Orlando City were close to capacity with an average of almost 24,000.
David Beckham is behind a new franchise being set up in Miami amid much fanfare, England legend Wayne Rooney has been a hit for DC United this season with 12 goals in 20 games and Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been, well, Zlatan, with 22 goals including some of his usual spectacular style.
It’s Tampa for City though, on the west coast of Florida, where Tampa Bay Rowdies compete in the second-tier United Soccer League, also wearing yellow and green.
The Rowdies’ 7,200 capacity Al Lang Stadium – where former Canaries midfielder Darel Russell played during the final season of his career – will be City’s training base for the week.
City’s head of performance Chris Domogalla, who followed Farke across from Borussia Dortmund II, explains: “Essentially it’s because of the more hours of sunlight per day in Tampa than here at Colney.
“We’ve had a really good season so far regarding the weather, but November usually turns out to be very dark and wet here, so we will get more and better natural vitamin D supply from the sunlight and warmth in Tampa and it will break up the dark days a little bit for the boys.”
Of course that means the players on international duty will miss out on the tour, let’s not feel too sorry for them though.
Teemu Pukki is set to be playing in Greece with Finland just needing a point to seal top spot in Group C2 and a place in the Euro 2020 play-offs, before a second chance to wrap it up in Hungary.
Max Aarons is due to be in Turkey for three qualifiers, in Manavgat on the south coast, as the England U19s look to book a place in the elite stage of qualification for next summer’s finals in Armenia.
Jamal Lewis and Michael McGovern may not quite be getting their vitamin D in Dublin as Northern Ireland take on the Republic in a friendly, before hosting Austria in the Nations League in Belfast.
While poor old Timm Klose has two games in Switzerland, a friendly against Qatar and a Nations League clash with Belgium – you can whack the sarcasm up to maximum for this sentence, I could happily live in Switzerland, a beautiful country.
Anyway, I digress. Sporting director Stuart Webber will also be flying out, hoping to be able to promote a flourishing squad still sitting pretty in the Championship’s automatic promotion places after victory over Millwall on Saturday.
Speaking to City’s website, Webber explained: “There’s a commercial element with our relationship with Visit Tampa Bay which has been really fruitful for the club and we’re really grateful for that relationship, so that’s great.
“But also it’s something we spoke about as a staff on the sporting side, could we do something in November during the international break because it’s our last chance before March to have a break and enjoy some warm weather and better training conditions for the team.
With the Carrow Road clash with Millwall the 13th game since City returned from the international break – featuring a superb nine wins so far, few fans will argue the City players have earned a reward.
There are eight games to be squeezed in between November 24 and the turn of the year. If some November sunshine can help boost the chances of the Canaries still being in the top two as we enter 2019, it will be more than worth the effort.
• You can keep up to date with City’s tour of Tampa by downloading the new Pink Un app from your mobile device’s relevant app store, where we’ll be bringing you plenty of exclusive Canaries content from now on