Middlesbrough’s players have been showcasing their team camaraderie in recent weeks… by turning up to Rockliffe in fancy dress.
Last week’s theme was centered around sportsmen, which led to a flock of tennis players, boxers and cyclists walking through the training ground doors.
Whilst the onus this week was to rock up in hideous tracksuits.
The idea, thought of by Adam Clayton, has been welcomed by manager Tony Pulis – despite some of the clobber on show.
“It’s been laughable,” he said. “We’re getting that spirit.
“When I first came here I thought it was very divided at times. We’re starting to get close to what I’ve always wanted at all my clubs.
“Yes, maybe one of two won’t buy into it or won’t see it as being for them but if you have a look at what they’re up to as a group, it’s fantastic.
“It’s been fabulous. They had to come in the worst tracksuit in the world on Wednesday to win it, the other day everybody had to turn up as a sportsman. So you had Marcus Tavernier turning up as a boxer, he had his headguard on and Lonsdale trainers. This is before training.
“They all had breakfast and lunch sat as tennis players, Ashley Fletcher turned up as a snooker player, George Friend was an All Black, Clayton was a cyclist.
“They had to pick the worst one and the worst one had to pay a fine. They did it again with tracksuits. It’s just for a laugh.”
Pulis believes team unity is paramount at clubs, none more so than at promotion chasing sides.
It’s a particular ideology that stems from his childhood growing up in Wales.
A tough and hard working community, not too dissimilar to that of Teesside folk, he grew up with his father, Angelo, a local steelworker, as well as his mother Jean, and his brothers and sisters.
“I want my teams to be competitive and to really be together as a team,” he said.
“That’s the community I was brought up in – everybody helps everybody.
“If mum ran out of milk, she’d knock next door and next door would lend you half a bottle of milk knowing next day they’d give half a milk back.
“There was no ‘we’re going hungry’, everybody provided for everybody. That’s me as a ten or 11-year-old and it’s never left me. If you’re together as a group you can move mountains.
“It’s trying to get people to buy into it. It’s difficult today. They’re not allowed mobile phones in their canteens but I used to go in and see them and everyone is on their phone.
“The players who they’re relying on to get them out of trouble every now and again, and they’re not talking to them, they’re on their phones. It’s not about that. That has a place but it’s about people. Life is about people.
“You can’t, as a person, if you don’t move with the times you get left behind. There are certain things you have to accept that I don’t agree with but you have to accept.
“But there are other things where if you can get them to buy into, all of a sudden, they think there’s more than that (picks up phone) to life.
“Like I say, the crack they’d had the last ten days … laughing at each other, taking the mickey out of each other. Doing this, doing that, it’s absolutely fantastic.”
Pulis will be hoping that team spirit is on show for the visit of Aston Villa this evening (5:30pm)