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  1. #1
    @hibs.net private member CyberSauzee's Avatar
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    Liam Henderson Article

    From The Athletic. Interesting article on life in Italy atm.

    “A domani“, Liam Henderson says before hanging up a Skype call. “See you tomorrow.”
    As he closes his laptop down and looks around, it’s clear the apartment needs tidying up. The fourth Scotsman ever to play in Serie A tucks the chair back under the dining table and picks up and folds the blanket and towels laid out on the floor. This is what training looks like in the time of lockdown and COVID-19.
    Henderson has just finished a plyometric session with ‘the Prof’, Empoli’s fitness coach, Franco Chinnici. “The first 10 minutes was a bit of stretching, some yoga. The cat and cow poses. Just to work on your mobility,” Henderson explains, “Then we got the chair out and did some split squats. You go up and down so you’re working your core, your glutes and your hamstrings. Then we did some lunges where you jump and change legs for explosiveness.”
    It’s like this every morning. Henderson starts with a temperature check to see if everything’s normal then at 10 o’clock Chinnici dials in and outlines the session plan. The team’s midfielders have been designated to him. One of his colleagues works the defenders. Another takes the strikers and they each put the players through a series of exercises focused on muscle activation, injury prevention and core strength. “Yesterday was more core-based,” Henderson says. “Planks, side-planks, sit-ups, press-ups.”
    That explains why the towels are out. The 23-year-old, now in his third season in Italy, joined Empoli on loan from Hellas Verona in mid-January. Italy has become his second home since leaving Celtic. Henderson moved into his own place only a week before lockdown. The flat didn’t have a TV let alone any gym equipment. “The day before was holding a squat against the wall. A wall-sit. Doing the calf work as well. The sports science team are doing a good job considering the situation they’re in, a very good job.”
    It’s been more than a fortnight since the season was suspended in Italy and amid all the uncertainty about when it will be safe enough to resume, Empoli are giving the players some structure to their everyday lives. They want them to stay as active as possible within the limits imposed by the government to stop the spread of the virus. “Starting this week they’ve told us to wake up at half eight, eat breakfast at nine like we would do normally,” Henderson tells The Athletic. “The sporting director, Pietro Accardi, spoke to us all and said nobody knows when the games are going to start back but we want you to try and keep in a routine.”
    For Henderson that includes heading to the training ground for lunch and dinner. Empoli continue to put on hot meals for those players who live alone. “There are three of us,” Henderson explains. “Me, Jure Balkovec and another young Swiss player, Nedim [Bajrami]. “You go at a certain time. The meals have already been made. The chef and his staff have prepared them. They go home then we arrive and we sit at a safe distance from each other so we can eat.
    “It’s a bit mental. But the club don’t need to do that. It shows they’re a very caring club.” One of Empoli’s sponsors, an ice cream maker, has installed a fridge filled with gelato at the canteen and just how long the stock lasts remains to be seen. “Unbelievable from them,” Henderson laughs. All jokes aside, one of the positives to be taken from the current state of emergency is the discipline and care he has to apply to his diet.
    “Before the lockdown I went to the supermarket and bought … not a lot of stuff but things that would last like a lot of nuts just to snack on if I’m hungry. I managed to get one carton of eggs that have lasted me pretty long as well. Twelve eggs. I’ve been in isolation for eight days so I’ve got four left. I’m just watching what I’m doing.
    “It’s probably better for me, for the physical condition I’m in now because, you know, you’re not going out and buying yourself a little treat. You’re eating what the club’s putting on for you which is proper good food. Say you went out to a restaurant and think: ‘I’ll just have a coke or a Fanta.’ You’re just drinking water and I feel better in my body for it as well.”
    In between meals Henderson organises a time slot with the sport scientist to do some running on the pitch behind Empoli’s Castellani stadium. His individual session plan is sent through to him on the club’s WhatsApp group and he spends 40 minutes working up a sweat out in the open. “Yesterday was a harder day,” he says. “I did five minutes of stretching and a 10-minute warm-up at a pretty good pace. Then it was three 10-minute blocks; 30 seconds good pace, 30 seconds hard pace for 10 minutes. Rest for two minutes and repeat. Today’s more about sharpness. I’m doing a bit more sprinting. Not as hard but you’ll wake up in the morning and feel the legs.”
    Usually the pitch is open to the public. Watching training and shooting the breeze in the stands is how a lot of retired locals like to spend a sizeable chunk of their day. Maurizio Sarri used to occasionally share a cigarette with them when he was in charge of the Azzurri, engaging in some repartee about the weekend’s game and some of the up-and-coming players in the team like Daniele Rugani, who moved to Juventus and, more recently, become the first Serie A player to test positive for COVID-19.
    “Now it’s completely closed off. You don’t see anybody at all,” Henderson says regretfully. It’s eerie and sad. Henderson is aware the age of the pensioners makes them especially vulnerable and hopes they’ll be back when the government and health services believe it’s safe enough for Italy to return to something resembling normal life. For now, their presence is missed.
    “You see the same faces everyday, it’s usually the old boys who have bought their Gazzetta dello Sport, they’ve had their coffee and smoked their cigarettes, and they turn up to watch the training,” Henderson says. “It’s class. The more south you go the more it’s like that. In Bari I loved the fact when I went out you’d see the old boys just playing cards or dominoes with like a glass of wine or beer, smoking away to their life’s content, not a care in the world. I was thinking to myself, ‘that’s what I’d like to be when I’m their age’.”
    Dotted around the pitch where he jogs are idle footballs. The impression given is of training stopping suddenly one day and there being no time to collect and put them away. “You feel yourself gravitating towards them,” Henderson admits. “I miss the ball.” He hasn’t passed one to a team-mate in weeks. “I did the ‘stay at home challenge’ the other day with the toilet roll. I got nominated for that so I did it, but it’s not the same. Essentially you’re just keeping your fitness.”
    To be able to leave his flat and drive to and from the training ground and the Castellani, Henderson must have his passport on him at all times as well as a signed police form certifying he is travelling for proven work needs. “I haven’t been stopped yet,” he says, “but I have to take one out with me because if the police pull you over…they can fine you and give you a criminal charge. It’s a bit extreme. But if it keeps people at home for the certain amount of time that’s needed, then it’s what you need to do.”
    Empoli printed out copies for every player and staff member to fill in and Henderson commends the organisation of a small but model club. “They were very well prepared in that aspect,” he explains, “We’ve got an Empoli group chat, which is a formal group chat that all the staff are in. They put in information about what the government are saying, and what you’ve got to do. The doctors are doing that every single day as well, which is great especially for foreigners who are maybe not watching Italian TV and keeping up with the Italian news as much as the Italians.”
    Downtime is spent FaceTiming his family and friends and fiancée Rebecca. Back when other leagues were playing and the Champions League was still on, Henderson watched games to pass the time. “I’ve been trying to keep my mind active, thinking about after football, managerial stuff, noting down wee bits and bobs, what I’ve learned from my managers over the years, what formation I’d play, my philosophy, playing the youth and stuff. I’m definitely going to enrol and do my badges.” After all, Italy’s coaching school, Coverciano, is only 40 minutes down the road.
    The FIGC (Italy’s Football Federation) hopes Serie A and B will resume in the first week of May, but Henderson is sceptical. “If you asked me personally, I can’t see the season being finished anytime in the next three months,” he says. Empoli have 10 regular-season games to play and still have a shot at making the Serie B play-offs. Their schedule isn’t as congested as some of the top-flight sides who remain in Europe and the Coppa Italia. But nobody can say for sure that it’ll be possible to pick up where they left off and wrap things up by June 30, which is when Henderson’s loan from Verona expires. Playing behind closed doors brings risks too.
    Empoli’s last game took place without supporters and Henderson says: “I’d never want to do that again. It is a competitive match and you’ve prepared the same way, but when you actually go out on the pitch it doesn’t feel like you’re playing for points. It feels like a pre-season friendly.
    “When you play away from home, you want to hear the abuse from the home supporters. No matter how bad it can be you want it. You want to make a tackle that gets your supporters going. I enjoy that side of the game. When you’re playing at home and you hear the fans encouraging you, you’re going for a goal or you’re winning it gives you that extra yard. Playing behind closed doors was a strange experience. If I had the choice I really wouldn’t want to do it again. It’s just totally bizarre.”


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  3. #2
    @hibs.net private member CyberSauzee's Avatar
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    In August Henderson followed in the footsteps of Denis Law, Graeme Souness and Joe Jordan, a select and prestigious group of Scots to play in Serie A. He started Verona’s first two games but the signings of Matteo Pessina and Sofyan Amrabat, who’s already on his way to Fiorentina for €21.5 million (£20 million) after a sparkling first year in Italy, made playing time hard to come by. Far from bitter about it, Henderson accepts that getting back in the starting XI was a tall order when Hellas, the revelation of this season’s Serie A, are eighth with a game in hand on the other Europa League contenders.
    “When you’re out of the team and the team is doing well you can’t really say much or do much because you can’t change a winning team, it’s football. Even though I didn’t play as much as I would have liked I learned so, so much. I was really proud at the fact that when I left, the manager [Ivan Juric] came out in his press conference and gave me a mention saying I was a good pro and his staff learned a lot from the way I went about my business. And I think that’s why Verona are doing so well because you’ve got 25 players who every day in training are going hell for leather. The way I worked with Juric made me realise that’s how you need to work every day.”
    Every Thursday the Croatian would organise a game in training Henderson likens to “a Champions League final” for its intensity. Those days feel like a long time ago now. Days when playing football, watching football and talking about football didn’t feel so trivial and frivolous.
    “I can understand why people want to go to work,” Henderson says, “Because they can’t afford not to go to work. And when my mum, who’s a nursery school teacher, says that children go to school and rely on it for a hot meal and to get fed and there’s the prospect of that being disrupted, it is going to have a massive impact on thousands and thousands. Obviously there’s some people (who get it) but I don’t think the UK realises how serious it’s going to be. From my experience here, you have to just listen and do what you’re told to do.”

  4. #3
    Coaching Staff jacomo's Avatar
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    Thank you for posting.

    Hendo always comes across as such a level-headed and likeable guy. To be thinking about a managerial career at only 23 is unusual but there are players who think deeply about the game and their life in it from a young age.

  5. #4
    @hibs.net private member tamig's Avatar
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    Excellent article. Thanks.

  6. #5
    Testimonial Due ACLeith's Avatar
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    Joe Baker played for Torino alongside Denis Law

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    @hibs.net private member ano hibby's Avatar
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    Excellent article, thanks for sharing 👍
    "We've also been unsure about what has happened to the receipts of the players who have been sold."
    George Foulkes BBC website 20/3/08

  8. #7
    @hibs.net private member brog's Avatar
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    Thanks S, great article about a fine young man!

  9. #8
    @hibs.net private member lord bunberry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACLeith View Post
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    Joe Baker played for Torino alongside Denis Law
    Joe was born in England.

    United we stand here....

  10. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by lord bunberry View Post
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    Joe was born in England.
    First player playing outwith England to be capped by them if I remember?

  11. #10
    @hibs.net private member lord bunberry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Onceinawhile View Post
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    First player playing outwith England to be capped by them if I remember?
    You could be right there.

    United we stand here....

  12. #11
    Testimonial Due ACLeith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lord bunberry View Post
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    Joe was born in England.
    True though as Scottish as any of us 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

  13. #12
    Testimonial Due ACLeith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Onceinawhile View Post
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    First player playing outwith England to be capped by them if I remember?
    Might have been in their 66 squad but I’m sure I read somewhere that Ramsay didn’t want a “jock” in his team. Hurst got in and the rest is history. If Joe had played then the dispute of was it over the line or not wouldn’t have happened as he would have (sadly) buried it in the onion bag without the help of the bar

  14. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by ACLeith View Post
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    Joe Baker played for Torino alongside Denis Law
    Joe played for England

  15. #14
    Coaching Staff Haymaker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lord bunberry View Post
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    You could be right there.
    He was.

    First player to play for England having never played in england. Owen Hargreaves was the 2nd.

    Think Terry Butcher was the first to have been born outside of England, or maybe that was just Captain.

  16. #15
    @hibs.net private member Iggy Pope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sammy7nil View Post
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    Joe played for England


    Here’s a recent knocked up framed photo of him in his England shirt.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  17. #16
    @hibs.net private member Peevemor's Avatar
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    Joe Baker told à brilliant story about his first England call up. He got in a taxi at Kings Cross and asked the driver to take him to the England team's hotel. The driver didn't believe Joe when he said he had been called up and, taking him for a nutter, radioed ahead for the police who were awaiting their arrival.

  18. #17
    @hibs.net private member Kato's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ACLeith View Post
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    Might have been in their 66 squad but I’m sure I read somewhere that Ramsay didn’t want a “jock” in his team. Hurst got in and the rest is history. If Joe had played then the dispute of was it over the line or not wouldn’t have happened as he would have (sadly) buried it in the onion bag without the help of the bar
    Baker was brought back into the England squad by Alf Ramsey after a gap of a few years. He won his first 5 caps while with Hibs and the rest later as an Arsenal player.

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