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Smells like team spirit!

English Barclays Premiership

George Graham is preparing to step up the players' pre-season schedule in Scandinavia - but the boss knows this week's trip is as much about life off the pitch as on it.

We jetted off to Sweden on Tuesday morning for a seven-day tour that will take in friendlies in Sweden either side of a match in Finland.

Manager Graham is a veteran of pre-season programmes and knows exactly what he is after. He explained: "Pre-season is preparation both to get the players physically right for the long, demanding English Premiership season and, just as important, to get the bonding.

"We want to get the players living together, getting to know one another's little habits and idiosyncrasies and build the team spirit, which I think is invaluable. If you are going to have a successful team, you have to have good team spirit no matter how good technically you are.

"So we're off for a week in northern Sweden, which is right up in the countryside. I was there about 12 years ago, really way up there and I think the players will appreciate it. Most teams when they go to Scandanavia go to Stockholm, Gothenburg, Olso, Copenhagen but I think sometimes you need as bit of privacy when they train.

"We'll normally pick a small, quiet town or village where there is not a lot to do and that's the idea of it. The first few days it's all nice and everyone enjoys one another's company but in the last few days they cannot wait to get back to their wives and families. The bonding and team spirit is usually acquired in the pre-season trip."

Graham said: "We have three games, but they are training games. We will be using quite a number of players over there. The 11 that start a game will not finish the game. There will be a lot of changes."

So a typical day on tour? Graham added: "We train in the morning then we'll have lunch and a break and then start training about three o'clock again and finish about half-five. We'll have dinner about seven-thirty. So you'll find the boys won't have much energy left to do anything else."

Photographs courtesy of Action Images Ltd.

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