Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 16

Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime

By: Nicolle Begovic

As the Premier League season winds down to the final few games, the freedom of a long football free summer beckons, or so it would, if it were not for the one of the greatest shows on Earth this year- the World Cup. The usual break from the pressure of weekly fixtures will be replaced with sustained heightened excitement, anxiety and nerves as my family and I watch Asmir step out on the world’s stage for Bosnia and Herzegovina this summer in Brazil. 

Writing this final column of the 2013/2014 season, is a great opportunity for me to reflect on yet another eventful year for Asmir and I, both professionally and personally. Our journey over the last ten months has seen us forge new friendships, build new partnerships and develop and mature as athletes within our respective sports.

A time to reflect……..

The ever increasing commitments to our career’s has meant some serious planning and organisational techniques have had to be adopted and perfected during this past season. For me, it has been a whirlwind 18 months as I progressed from being a novice rider, to riding my first advanced test this year. It was the generous support and patience of my previous trainer, Jane Critchley who facilitated this progression. I still owe Jane a massive thank you for her constant support with my weekly training with Richard Davison, before I eventually moved permanently to his yard seven month’s ago. The transition to Richard’s yard for daily training and mentoring, in preparation for International Dressage competition, was a childhood dream come true. This, to me, is the opportunity of a lifetime and one I am very grateful for. 

The chance to watch Richard and his wife Gillian train their incredibly talented Dressage horses daily is fantastic and an incredibly educational experience. It has helped me to not only develop as a rider, but also improve my knowledge further in the care and management of top competition horses. It is my aim, that this time next year, I will be telling you about riding my first Grand Prix and International competition. But for now, I have my sights firmly set on riding Internationally at Small Tour, which is formed by two test level’s, the Prix St George and Intermediate I. 

For Asmir, he would say that this has been a good developmental season for both himself and the club. There has been all-round progression, both on and off the pitch, and I know I am looking forward to seeing what height’s this may take Stoke to next year.

Brazil Bound

So this is it! World Cup fever is reaching new heights in our household as our focus turns to what so far will be Asmir’s biggest ever football experience in his career. Barely hours after the final whistle of the last Premier League game, Asmir will be boarding his flight to Sarajevo to begin preparations. The initial training will happen in Bosnia whilst the country will await confirmation of its final 23-man squad that will travel to Brazil. The anticipation already in Bosnia is incredible and I am sure the supporters will no doubt contribute to the carnival atmosphere that awaits them. Following this preliminary camp, the World Cup squad will travel to St. Louis and Chicago in America to acclimatise and make final preparations in two friendlies, before eventually making the move to their base camp in Brazil. 

I will be documenting all my experiences at the World Cup, and I look forward to sharing them with you next season. I must thank Stoke City media department for inviting me to write a column for their programme for which I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I am grateful for the opportunities it has afforded me to meet new friends and take part in exciting new projects. I thank all of you that have taken the time to read it as I have very much enjoyed writing every single one and sharing with you my “Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s regime”. Have a great summer!

Nicolle x

Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 15

Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime

By: Nicolle Begovic

It has been a jammed packed few weeks for Asmir and I, and my word count for this column, will be bursting at the seams trying to fit everything in. It is quite astonishing that I have already reached the penultimate chapter before the final home game of the season. I have really enjoyed my contribution to the Stoke City match day programme and will miss it over the summer break. I will be sure to take plenty of notes of my trip to Brazil this summer to see Asmir play in his first World Cup with Bosnia.

London Bound

Asmir and I had the rare opportunity to visit London together for a few events recently. I always look forward to visiting London and experiencing the magic of that wonderful, International city. The sheer pace of London and the people working and living in it, never fails to surprise me, as it is such a variation to my day-to-day life with the horses in the Staffordshire countryside. 

The previous evening was spent in Manchester enjoying Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience tour followed by the next evening with a trip to London’s West End to see Beverly Knight in the ‘The Bodyguard’. Our West End trip was a first for Asmir and I and it was fantastic. Whitney Houston remains to be one of my favourite artists of all time and witnessing Beverly Knight perform all of her greatest hits note perfect was truly incredible. I highly recommend for anyone looking for a great evening in London.

Less than a week later, Asmir and I returned to London to attend ‘An evening with Mo Farah’ hosted by Steve Cram, both field and track Olympic medalists. We were in good company that evening surrounded by very talented athletes of past and present. It was a wonderful opportunity to raise money and support for both Mo Farah and Steve Cram’s respective charities. Steve Cram’s charity, Comrades of Children Overseas (COCO), is a children’s based charity founded in 2000, and has since raised in excess of £2.8 million for projects across the developing world. Mo Farah attended the evening a little less then 48 hours after his participation in the London Marathon and I was impressed that he was happily walking around not looking at all tired as I imagine I would have been post 26 miles! The Mo Farah Foundation generates funds to provide life saving aid to East Africa. The evening was a great success raising over £55,000 for two great causes and it certainly inspired Asmir to do the same for his foundation so watch this space for future events. 

Horses, horses, everywhere!

It has been a whirlwind two weeks for me racking up some air miles attending two Dressage events. Two weekends ago, I attended the Excellent Dressage Sales (EDS), held at the infamous Bartels Academy of Dressage in Hooge Mierde, Holland along with my trainer Richard Davison and his wife Gillian. It was the first time that I attended a horse auction and this was most certainly a very exciting event. The EDS showcased very talented Dressage horses ranging from un-backed three year-old’s to top established Grand Prix horses. It could be compared to attending an event where the best footballers, young and talented to those very experienced in their game, were all on display for purchase to the highest bidder. The beauty of the auctions is that you can ‘try before you buy’ so trial rides of the horses happened in the days and weeks leading up to the auction. I ‘test drove’ a few lovely horses but on the auction day, I was sadly out bid. I found the auction very exciting watching bids fly in for horses I had particularly earmarked for their talent and confirmation. I am already looking forward to attending the event next year, and the same for scouting footballers, I am curious to keep an eye out over the next few years to see where these very beautiful and talented horses go in the respective Dressage careers. 

My first ‘World Cup’ of 2014

One of the biggest dates in the show calendar for Dressage is the Reem Acra FEI World Cup final that last week took place in Lyon. The top riders in the world battle in qualifiers around the world to ultimately gain qualification to this most prestigious of events. Although some of the best horse and rider combinations were selected, the main threats to Charlotte DuJardin’s title win were Germany’s Helen Langehanberg and Dutch Dressage star Edward Gal. For me, this was one of the best weekend’s I had ever had. It was a privilege to watch outstanding Dressage competition that ultimately concluded with Charlotte DuJardin and her ride Valegro, not only win the World Cup but to break her own Grand Prix world record in the process. It was truly an incredible experience and let me returning home reflecting on my own ambitions and very motivated. I one day want to be attending a World Cup final-but for now it is time for me to apply focus and patience with competition endeavouring to continually improve my scores. 

As we embark on the penultimate Premier League home game for Stoke, I hope that the team can collect as many points as possibly over the last few games to secure Stoke City’s highest ever finish in the table for some years. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Nicolle x

Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 14

Whilst I’m usually at the Britannia for Stoke’s home games, I don’t go to so many away matches. Big mistake last week! The victory against Villa was Stoke’s biggest ever away win since joining the Premier League, and taken in style. Stoke are the new Barcelona I hear, so the next priority must be an upgrade for the weather to Mediterranean standards.

It’s amazing how much a win lifts the mood at home, and that one certainly started our week on a real high note. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Asmir and I. Last Monday afternoon the Redgate Clayton Football Club in Newcastle was the first recipient of a cheque from the Asmir Begovic Foundation. I’ve mentioned it before, but foundation is one of Asmir’s favourite projects, aimed at raising funds to improve “grass roots” sports facilities in the Stoke area, and also in Bosnia.

Asmir met up with Terry Conroy to present a cheque to Chairman Clive Russell. The money will be used to help with the refurbishment of facilities at their ground in Northwood Lane. The club wants to improve their facilities to provide the opportunity for both adults and children to train at the ground by making their changing rooms better and their club house bigger.  The Club was established back in 1969, initially in Longton and has evolved over the years. Naturally it’s a hotbed of Stoke supporters, who made Asmir and Terry very welcome as they received the guided tour. This is exactly the sort of project Asmir wanted to support when he set up the foundation, he wants to help where help is genuinely needed, and that also includes a couple of projects in the pipeline in Bosnia, which I’ll write about in the future.

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 13

The Equestrian and Football world’s collided two weekends ago when Stoke took on Arsenal whilst I was joined by Dressage great and trainer, Richard Davison, and the chief of business development, Lisa Lazarus of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the governing body for equestrian sport. It was a rare opportunity for me to bring both sports in my life together. The demands of maintaining competition horses can leave little time for much else, however, it was great to have Richard Davison, my trainer and mentor, and his son Tom join us for the day. It was a pleasure to welcome Lisa Lazarus, and her wonderful family to their first Stoke game. Lisa’s children and our daughter Taylor embraced and regaled the infamous Stoke atmosphere whilst donning their ‘potter’s’ kits. Lisa has told me that nearly two weeks later, her daughter still insists on wearing her Stoke kit around London daily! It’s great to hear that the Stoke fan base net has been cast far and wide.


Friendly time again!

No sooner had the final whistle been blown on the epic 1-0 win against arsenal, was Asmir packing and preparing for his first International friendly of 2014. This game served as a very important opportunity to tune up and prepare for the imminent World Cup in Brazil. These games are critical to experiment with variations in formations and introducing newer members of the team whilst also smoothing out any rough edges. These games are crucial for providing competition within the team, as they battle for selection for a place in the final 23 man strong World Cup squad. Bosnia took on Egypt in what would have looked like a home game at Innsbruck, Austria with the stadium at capacity with predominantly Bosnian fans. Although the 2-0 defeat was less then ideal, it proved to be an invaluable experience. Hopefully lessons will be learned from this game and the team will be better prepared and knowledgeable for their next friendly against the Ivory Coast in May.

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 12

Although it was nearly two weeks ago, the victory against Manchester United still tastes so sweet! It was exactly what the club, players and fans needed for that boost as we enter a critical time in the season, where every point in a game is crucial. The match triumph was celebrated that evening with Asmir and myself and a few of the couples from Stoke enjoying a lovely Chinese dinner together. As you can imagine besides the usual ‘changing room’ banter from the lads, all talk was on the win. Normally this ‘banter’ is something most of the wives are not privy to as it usually remains at the training ground, so it is always entertaining to experience it first hand. It did make it hard to eat or drink, as we were all laughing so hard that evening.

During dinner, Robert Huth set Asmir a fun challenge for his following day’s television appearance on Sky Sport’s Goals On Sunday. Robert tasked Asmir with challenge of somehow introducing the word “thundercat” randomly into conversation. We were all gripped to our sofa’s the next morning waiting to see how he would manage it, however Asmir ever the constant professional, made the decision not to do it. That probably was the right decision as he is keen to develop of career in sports media one day after his career finishes.

Lights, camera, action!

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 11

Well, hasn’t it been a while?! Three weeks have passed since my last instalment and here we are at the beginning of February already. It is a great relief to have the last month behind us, that was blighted by Asmir’s injury, and see him back in goal against Chelsea. Asmir was very keen to keep his mind off his temporary sabbatical and filled his time with media work, for television and radio, which he has shown a great talent for. Asmir has always enjoyed the opportunity to discuss not only football, but any sport. Perhaps one day after he has retired his gloves, he will be donning the suit and analysing the games rather then playing in them on a Saturday. 

Although Asmir has filled his free time with other work, it certainly hasn’t prevented him from getting his daily fix of this years Celebrity Big Brother. This show is a guilty pleasure of ours. It makes for light and entertaining viewing at the end of a usually very long and demanding day for us both. It is has been said that this has been one of the most watched and controversial seasons yet filled with the customary ‘love triangle’, controversial career’s and often a few character surprises. The highlight of the show this season has to be the scene with Daily Mail journalist Liz Jones, in the bath, trying not to laugh, as Apprentice star Luisa Zissman requires her to in order complete a ‘secret task’. It was television gold and has been the most viewed video on YouTube in the shows history. 

Asmir though is not the only one keeping busy in the Begovic house. I have stepped up a gear in my training regime both in and out of the saddle. It is very exciting that the Dressage competition season is fast approaching and something I have been looking forward and working towards for a very long time. Daily training is now geared and tailored towards my first outing at the advanced level known as Prix St George. It is a bit like I am about to break into to the Premier League for my debut! 

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 10

Well it has certainly been an interesting time for Asmir and our family over Christmas to say the least. Little did we know that on Christmas Day evening, that I would receive a picture message from Asmir, simply displaying a heavily bandaged left hand. Alarms bells rang in my head and I knew instantly that it couldn’t be good. Seeing a goalkeeper’s hand injured is quite an uncomfortable and upsetting experience, as these are their most valuable assets for their particular job. An X-Ray on Boxing Day revealed the break in his little finger that would normally seem small and insignificant, however that break has now influenced a major schedule change for Asmir for the next two months.

Occupational Hazard

Footballer’s, along with most professional sports athletes, battle daily to avoid injury which is a constant threat to their ability to do their job. I face the same risk everyday I ride, as horses are huge and powerful animals with a mind of their own, and I cannot always predict what they are thinking and feeling. Managing a horse and its mind is one of the biggest challenges within the sport of Equestrian. This also has to be balanced with keeping the horses themselves fit and healthy. I myself have suffered from particularly unpleasant riding injuries in the past, and this is what I would describe as an “Occupational Hazard”. The physical demands of a professional footballer over the past few decades have evolved. They are now finely tuned athletes that are trained to their full maximum human ability, which as a result has made the sport physically more challenging therefore heightening the risk of injury. 

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 9

NEW YEAR'S EDITION!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2014! Let’s hope it is a wonderful year for everyone. There is something lovely about the beginning of the year where you can look forward to new events and start to make plans for a sunny getaway, after tucking all the Christmas decorations away for another year. The Begovic household now has officially started the countdown clock to Bosnia’s first World Cup game against Argentina on the 15th of June at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro. Asmir is delighted with his group and is excited to play against three very talented teams. For me, 2014 is the start of a new competition year for my horse Foxy and I. I am very excited and have been looking forward to this for a very long time. But a more important event to prioritise now is the chase and capture of three points today against Everton. I am sure that will help alleviate many sore heads out there from last night’s New Year’s celebrations!


At least with January 1st, we can look forward to lighter evenings now we are on the right side of winter. However I sense that snow will likely plague us early on this year with it having yet to make an appearance. With horses and children alike in their love of freedom to roam, snow’s ability to inflict involuntary confinement to the indoors always poses as a challenge each year. Children though can bask in its novelty with snowmen and sledging, but horses are confined to their stables, which can prove testing to animals that prefer free roaming. Plus I don’t think footballers enjoy training or playing in snow much either. So let’s see if we kick off 2014 with a white winter.

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 8

With only a few days until the Christmas festivities begin, we embark on a battle of the greats. From the pitch of the Britannia stadium, to the beautifully polished floor at Strictly Come Dancing with our very own Abbey Clancy in the Grand Final tonight. Good luck Abbey! Last weekend was the final of X-Factor crowning the amazing Sam Bailey as the winner. I love that during her live interview, the first thing she was looking forward to was seeing Leicester play in their Capital One cup game- brilliant! Television is really building us up for the conclusion of 2013.

I wish I had a crystal ball, as I would hope that today we are celebrating a win and progression to the Capital One Cup quarterfinals next year, after the mid-week meeting of Stoke and Manchester United. Let’s hope it will be Stoke’s golden ticket to Wembley for final. So let’s hope it will be 3 points today before Stoke’s players embark on a hectic Christmas fixtures list.


Pass the gravy………

At the very moment the majority of people will be nursing an overfull tummy from the usual Christmas indulgence of delicious food and treats on Christmas day, the players are likely to be tucked away into their hotel rooms on mandatory rest for their Boxing meet against Newcastle. That being said, a turkey Christmas dinner is generally on the approved diet list so it makes for a nice meal for the players and family, although I imagine they have to watch the sausages and other less healthy items and instead substitute with plenty of brussel sprouts-yum!

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 7

World Cup fever has consumed the Begovic household this week as we eagerly count the minutes and seconds until the World Cup draw. Friday at 4pm GMT, the Worlds eyes will excitedly look upon the up market coastal resort town of Costa do Sauipe in the province of Bahia, approximately 56 miles from the host city of Salvador. It may as well be a little extra Christmas for Asmir and our family as the World Cup will be one of the most anticipated dates ever to have been entered into any of our diaries. By the time you are reading this, it will have already been decided just 24 hours earlier. I am watching Pot 4 closely as this has been a contentious issue this week. With one team, which could include Bosnia or England, being relocated to another Pot facing them with the challenge of potentially being drawn into the ‘group of death’. Knowing how much emotional and physical investment Asmir has made over his career so far for this opportunity, I will be donning the tin hat and hiding behind the sofa with fingers firmly crossed until the draw is complete! 

Asmir Begovic Foundation Launch

The launch of the Asmir Begovic foundation last week was a great success. We were very fortunate to have the generous support from many influential people in the sports world, especially football, but also family and friends. It was great to see Edin Dzeko and Ryan Shawcross there on the evening to be able to personally present their signed shirts to the lucky bidder in the silent auction. I can confirm that Mrs. Shawcross and I did our best to convince Edin to join Ryan and Asmir in a Stoke City shirt this January, but we were unsuccessful in our mission! It was lovely to finally meet the ‘boss’ Mark Hughes and to hear that he is a fan and regular reader of my column.

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 6

Is it me or has the pre-Christmas ritual of festive songs on the radio and television adverts, reminded us that the holidays are in fact coming, just sprung out of nowhere? How has another year flown by? Our daughter has been signing Christmas carols around the house for a few weeks and desperate for the decorations to go up already. We haven’t even had Thanksgiving yet which in America, is the precursor and signal that Christmas preparations can now begin and that’s not until the 28th of November! Although it is not celebrated over here, I fully intend on exploiting any opportunity for a delicious turkey meal. Asmir has just returned from his last International Duty for 2013 and I am delighted at having him home for a few months. The work doesn’t stop though for us as my Dressage training kicks up a gear and Asmir has just launched his charity foundation- The Asmir Begovic Foundation.


That 13-second goal…….

Although it feels like it was in the distant past, the Begovic household is still celebrating the addition of a new goal scorer! It seems my husband has been upgraded to a duel role footballer- goalkeeper and striker. And some say men can’t multitask? Asmir has disproven that theory, as he has always been determined to. My family and I were lucky enough to be at the Southampton game to witness the wonder of Asmir’s first goal. What surprised us the most was our indecisiveness as how to celebrate, as we had never contemplated what we would do if Asmir had scored. After a much-delayed reaction to the goal, we embraced the roars of celebration around the Britannia and threw our hands up in the air.

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 5

Now daylight savings time is officially over and the darker evenings draw in, I really sense that the season is well and truly underway. It is fantastic to be able to celebrate a Stoke win in the 4th round of the Capital One cup earlier this week. After the emotionally exhausting rollercoaster of watching Asmir spend 18 months of International duty with Bosnia successfully campaigning for World Cup qualification, I feel I can finally let out a sigh of relief and take a deep breath. 

My family’s focus and mine is now firmly on Stoke’s pre-Christmas schedule. This is always an exciting time of the season for me as I find the International breaks at the beginning of the season to be quite disruptive to the general flow of games and to family life at home. It marks a transition into a more balanced day-to-day existence in our household, especially for our daughter, who most appreciates it as she gets more time with Asmir.

Football – Of the American variety

Asmir and Ryan Shawcross had a rare break last Sunday from the field to be able spectate from the stands at Wembley Stadium to see the NFL teams Jacksonville Jaguars take on the San Francisco 49’ers in a regular season game. Growing up in Tennessee, American Football was a staple sport for my state as football is here in Europe. It is such an American cliché when I think back to me cheerleading at High school football games back in the day with the entire town in attendance, with most Sunday’s afternoons after church spent watching the NFL. 

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 4

There is only one possible theme I can start with, and that is the fact that Asmir will be playing in the 2014 Word Cup in Brazil! Amazing, Amazing, Amazing! Bosnia left it late to seal qualification, knowing that with Greece likely to beat Lichtenstein at home, only a win would do. On the 68th minute Vedad Ibisevic scored his 7th goal of the campaign, and that proved enough to take one of Europe’s newest countries through to the 2014 World Cup.

I was in Sarajevo last Friday, to see the last home qualification game. The eventual 4-1 victory over Lichtenstein was comfortable but quite nervy, with the stakes increased by the fact that 4 of Bosnia’s players were carrying yellow cards and on strict instructions not to take any risks. The celebrations after the match were subdued as well, but I don’t think the atmosphere in Bosnia on Tuesday night will have been anything less than euphoric. It is a country that takes Football very seriously (it's a national obsession), and there will have been a lot of sore heads and little work getting done on Wednesday.

It’s also great how relaxed the atmosphere is around the players. Although the fans are kept at a safe distance most of the time, players are able to meet and socialise with their families, and I know this helps Asmir to relax and keep things in perspective before the big games. I had the privilege of meeting Safet Susic, the Bosnian Manager and Paris Saint-Germain legend, and it’s his philosophy to keep things as normal and grounded as possible.

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 3

I have just spent a significant amount of time watching my cursor persistently blink on my screen urging me to write about the previously mentioned subject of WAG’s. Cue Asmir cringing at the realisation that I am about to broach this sensitive subject and the looks and banter that are undoubtedly being directed his way in the changing room as the other players realise this. I’ll go easy on the WAG's-this is not a tell-all autobiography!

WAG’s World

What is a ‘WAG’? Well from the time of its introduction during the 2006 World Cup in Germany, it has evolved into a vast array of definitions, inaccurate representations and myths, many of which I’d like to dispel. In pursuit of journalistic integrity, research was required. I had to cast back my memory with illustrative photo diaries, thanks to the power of Google, to the birthplace of the term WAG, for the wife or girlfriend of a footballer.
It all began in Baden Baden, Germany when the paparazzi documented every well-heeled stride of each of the England players’ wife or girlfriend. They were instantly propelled into the growing media frenzy and tabloids surrounding the England players at the tournament. Never before had any outfit choice, hairstyle or spray tan of a WAG been so meticulously analysed by the public. Suddenly there was this curiosity as though we were a new species discovered that had to be studied and documented from eating to shopping habits?! 

This though was not the foundations behind the already established idea of what a WAG was. The 8 yearlong British television drama Footballer’s Wives portrayed a more sinister existence from infidelity to criminal behaviour, which made for great television, but certainly does not even come close to real footballing partnerships, which are usually much less exciting! 

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime - Part 2

It’s great to be able to breathe a sigh of relief that not only has the transfer window shut for this year, but also to see Stoke having such a strong start to the season! Asmir is thrilled with the beginnings of what could be one of the best seasons for Stoke yet! It really seems as though the bedding in period has well and truly passed with the players getting into their stride with day-to-day training and playing. I always find I know that the season is well under way when the darker evenings approach and with Strictly Come Dancing hitting our screens again. With Peter Crouch’s wife Abbey a contestant this series, I hope she can rely on the votes of all Stoke fans on. Match Of The Day is already series linked to record on the Sky box so there’s no fighting over the remote on a Saturday night!

International Affairs

It seems that no sooner does the season get started that the International break interrupts it, dispersing Stoke players all over the globe. This can be one of the most testing times of the year for International footballers and their families as they must balance their commitment to both club and country. Asmir has been playing at International level since I first met him and it can come with its challenges, not only for him but also for our family. His most recent International break meant Asmir missed our daughter’s first day at school (as did may other footballer Daddies’) but that is just one of the sacrifices that is dictated by their sport. 

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Dressage Dreams and a Goalkeeper’s Regime

As I sit at the hairdressers now writing my very first article whilst having my hair extensions put in, I can’t help but to laugh at the irony of this situation. Here I am, hoping to write a column over the next season to try and break the cliché of the modern WAG and who we really are, and so far this sort of start may not be helping that but here goes anyway…………

A new term at Stoke City

And so it begins, the start of another new and exciting year for Stoke, freshly seasoned with the anticipation of a new manager, new faces and new style of play at the club and of course, my very first column! So let me kick off by welcoming you to my new home game feature, which I hope you all will enjoy reading this season.

This exciting opportunity allows my husband Asmir and I to share with you a little extra insight into the mechanics that enables our personal life, my Olympic dreams to compete in dressage and his football career to intertwine and coincide. Here is a backstage pass as to what really goes on behind the scenes of a footballer’s life and you may be surprised and disappointed to learn, for example, that Asmir does many ‘normal’ day-to-day chores. You will often see him frequenting a local supermarket, shop or walking our dog when he isn’t busy travelling or training.

So a little bit about me……….

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