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. 

Our family knows how much it means to Asmir to represent his country, and the patriotic fervour of the football-mad Bosnians has to be seen to be believed. As I write this, Asmir is currently in Zilina, celebrating a win in Bosnia’s world cup qualifier against Slovakia after losing at home a few days ago. Bosnia started strong in their group and it seems everyone wants their ticket to Brazil so they are all fighting hard for it. Bosnia still narrowly head qualifying group G, the deciding game could be either of the two remaining games in October. If they qualify, the celebrations in Sarajevo will be audible in Stoke! It’s nail-biting stuff especially when I know it is one of Asmir’s ultimate dreams to play at the World Cup. 

Danish Delight

Asmir though is not the only traveller in the family. Dressage also keeps me racking up the air miles too and this is only likely to increase as I progress further in developing my International Dressage career. I was very fortunate to attend the European Dressage Championships in lovely Herning, Denmark a few weeks ago to witness the Dressage greats battle it out head to head for both team and individual glory. The competition is our equivalent of the Euro’s in football so for me I had died and gone to Dressage heaven with a rare opportunity having an “access all areas” pass for the duration of the competition- and my I was inspired! It is moments like these that I can truly appreciate the same joy and fulfilment that fans get watching their beloved teams play football.

Day-to-Day Life

At the end of this International break, Stoke players will reunite to prepare for this weekend’s big hitter against Manchester City. There are a few new players that have joined since Asmir has been away, so the few days of training on his return will be hugely important. 

Asmir has always been very strict with his pre-game preparations that pretty much start at the sound of the final whistle of the previous game. The days leading up to any game are crucial for Asmir and the team and each player I’m sure has their routine and superstitions to uphold but it wouldn’t be fair if I gave them all away! If Asmir is at home the night before, pasta, pasta and more pasta is the menu choice for him and it is important for him to get as much rest and quiet time as is possible. I can appreciate having a routine as I do before I compete, as you want to eliminate the likely hood of a small upset that may be detrimental to your performance.

Asmir and I have found a happy balance, although not always easy, with managing both our training schedules. I aim to ride five to six days a week with a variation of specific Dressage training balanced with conditioning work for my horse. Strength and cardiovascular fitness are crucial for both my horse and I so even I have had to start focusing more on gym work-not my most favourite thing to do! My days at the yard are usually long as it is the care and maintenance of the horses and the equipment that is very time consuming, not necessarily the training. I keep my horse Chico, a huge 18.2HH gelding, at Denstone Stud near Uttoxeter which is run by my resident trainer Jane Critchley. Jane oversee’s my daily training, ensuring it complies with the requirements of my head trainer and mentor Richard Davison. Jane is not just my trainer, but has been key in my development as a rider as she is a great supporter and friend of mine for which I am truly grateful.

Richard is a four-time Olympian and has been British number 1 six times so I am very lucky to be able to learn from one of the Dressage greats. I have an HGV license (and not many WAG’s have one of those) so I can transport my horse to Richard for lessons and travel to competitions a few times a month. Asmir is very supportive and tries to watch me when his training schedule allows. I am currently competing in my winter qualifying period to gain points to qualify for larger Championship shows. So all in all Asmir and I keep pretty busy especially balancing home life with a 4-year old who has just started school. It is lovely being able to drift back down memory lane as I walk through the corridors of my daughter’s school. Where does the time go? I am starting to understand the concept of time passing faster the older my daughter gets and reaches new milestones in her life. 

So here’s hoping to another great result against Manchester City. I am excited to see how this half of the season goes for Stoke. I know that all the wives and girlfriends are great supporters at each game and you will often find us shouting as loud in the stands as the fans around us. I will save the talk of WAGS for next time……

Nicolle x