How BPL clubs have fared post-Dubai training camps

Sport360 takes a brief look at the many English sides that have traded the wind and rain of an early English spring for the sun and sand in the UAE.

Ozer McMahon
by Ozer McMahon
16th February 2017

article:16th February 2017

“In the Bleak Midwinter” may be a 19th century poem by Christina Rossetti, but the term can also reference the feeling that engulfs many Premier League clubs during the busiest parts of their seasons.

With no winter break, English teams have begun to seek warm weather refuge in February, when the most intensive part of their campaigns die down somewhat.


Stoke City, West Ham and Everton are looking to pick up their campaigns as they arrive in Dubai this week, putting seven hours between themselves and the testing weather conditions back home.

However, they are far from the first sides to decamp to the Middle East mid season in recent years.

2013

Swansea City

Having secured a comfortable mid table position in their first ever Premier League campaign, the Swans utilized a free FA Cup weekend in February 2013 to travel to Dubai for some warm weather training.

Swansea, who enjoyed the use of the facilities at Dubai Sports City Football Academy for the duration of their camp, sat 8th in the league when they headed for the Middle East and their minds were firmly fixed on their League Cup final clash against Bradford two weeks later.

The club’s form tailed off in the closing stages of the season winning just two of their final 12 games, but they still finished comfortably mid-table (9th with 47 points), and won the League Cup for the first time in their history.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: SUCCESS
Their league form may have suffered but you can’t ignore the silverware!

Sunderland
The Black Cats were another side that jetted off on a mid season training camp in 2013, tucked away in the relative security of 11th when they landed in the UAE.

Then manager Martin O’Neill felt the camp was valuable for his players at the time, allowing them to work on their fitness and acting as a mini pre-season to help some of his January signings settle in.

Despite O’Neill’s positivity, his charges won just two of their 12 fixtures upon their return and slipped to 17th in the table, avoiding relegation by a mere three points.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: FAILURE
The Black Cats nearly used all their nine lives in this trip and were fortunate to stay up.

Queens Park Rangers
Mid season breaks, if done correctly, can act as a real boon for a side, and QPR were in dire need of a pick me up in February 2013.

Rock bottom of the table, albeit only four points from safety, the R’s took to Dubai under Harry Redknapp, who had brought his 2008 FA Cup winning Portsmouth squad to the UAE during the spring of their successful season.

Lightning didn’t strike twice however as the London side, who stayed at the Royal Meridien Hotel, were accused of turning the camp into a “stag party”.

The club denied those accusations but they only picked up eight points in their final 12 games and finished the season in 20th spot, 14 points from safety.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: FAILURE
Slated in the press back home for treating the trip as a jolly and finishing a distant bottom, it doesn’t get worse.

West Ham United
A year on from a mid season trip to Dubai that aided West Ham’s promotion to the Premier League, the East London outfit returned to the city in February 2013 as a top flight club.

Assistant manager at the time Neil McDonald suggested the Vitamin D the players would soak up through the sun would stand them in good stead for the season’s final third.

Leaving the UAE in 13th, West Ham lost only four of their fixtures once they returned and finished comfortably in 10th place.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: SUCCESS
Not a huge success but an improved finish to the season and a top half finish justified the decision.

Reading
Another of the 2012-13 season strugglers that hoped for a mid season Dubai inspired upturn in fortunes was Berkshire outfit Reading.

The club travelled to Dubai in early February to prepare for their FA Cup 5th round clash with Manchester United, and their relegation run-in.

Manager Brian McDermott noted at the time the 30 degree temperatures were much more appealing than the freezing conditions in the south west of England.

Reading were 17th when they left for their camp,  and unfortunately for McDermott the club were knocked out of the FA Cup and he was sacked in March before the club were duly relegated, recording just one win in their post-Dubai fixtures.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: FAILURE
A managerial sacking, Cup exit and relegation made this an unmitigated disaster.

Norwich City
When Norwich were unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by Luton in January 2013, things looked grim for the Canaries, however it afforded them the chance to steal away for a few days training in the Abu Dhabi sunshine.

Buoyed by the warmer climes, Chris Houghton put his men through their paces in a bid to ensure they were fully focused when it came to staving off relegation from the top flight.

Norwich were 14th in the table when they flew off to the Middle East, and the trip obviously worked a treat for the club who recorded four wins and three draws in their concluding 12 fixtures and ended the season in 11th place.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: SUCCESS
Norwich will look back on their time fondly, the UAE seemingly rousing the side at the end of the season.

2014

Manchester United
Third round FA Cup exists were rare at United under Sir Alex Ferguson, but that’s exactly the fate that befell David Moyes during his failed Old Trafford tenure.

With a rare break in the fixture list, United and their embattled manager was seeking solace outside of the microscopic environment of Manchester.

The squad spent a week training in the environs of the Dubai Sports City Football Academy, but the defending Premier League champions who were 7th, and 16 points adrift of leaders Chelsea, saw little improvement on their return to England.

Moyes didn’t make the end of April and the side remained 7th at the campaign’s conclusion, some 22 points back on eventual champions, and city rivals, Manchester City.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: FAILURE
An awful campaign for United went from bad to worse after coming to Dubai. They did meet Maradona though. Make of that what you will…

West Ham United
Following two successful stints in Dubai, Sam Allardyce brought his team back to the Middle East to recharge their batteries ahead of an anticipated end of season relegation scrap.

West Ham were 15th in the League, only two points clear of the relegation zone when they arrived in Dubai in February.

While the Hammers lost eight of their remaining 12 games in the 2013-14 campaign, their four victories were enough to avoid relegation as they finished 13th.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: SUCCESS
Really it was neither but we can’t sit on the fence. Climbed two positions, won four, not too shabby.

Stoke City
Mark Hughes has changed a lot about the way Stoke operate during his time in charge, and a mid season trip to Dubai was one further example.

They were deeply embedded in the relegation mire, placed 14th and only two points clear of danger when they decamped for the Jebel Ali Centre of Excellence.

However, they returned reinvigorated, winning seven and losing just two of their final 12 games to secure a 9th place finish and the retention of their Premier League status.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: SUCCESS
It was a great trip for Stoke as they climbed five places and earned a top half finish post Dubai.

Newcastle United
Then manger Alan Pardew had to defend his clubs maiden voyage on a mid season training camp to Abu Dhabi in 2014, insisting the players were not going on a holiday.

Some were questioning the timing of the trip as Newcastle had just been knocked out of the FA Cup, but Pardew, declared it was in the offing regardless of their cup progress.

Newcastle were 8th when they headed to Abu Dhabi, and despite claims they weren’t on their holidays, eight defeats in their final 12 games led to the Toon Army to a 10th place finish, and some suggestions some of the players had potentially never returned from holiday mode.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: FAILURE
Eight defeats in nine is shocking and the team were lucky their early season form had them clear of relegation.

2015

Bournemouth
If the Premier League’s 38 game season is deemed grueling, spare a thought for those in the Football League who have to contend with a staggering 46 game campaign before even taking in the various cup competitions.

Bournemouth swept through the Championship like a breath of fresh air last season en route to a first ever promotion to the top flight, which was aided by a spell in Dubai.

The Cherries were rewarded with a trip to the Middle East after getting their promotion push back on track, after it nearly derailed during a winless February.

Eddie Howe’s men enjoyed a five day getaway at the end of March, and upon their return they powered to six wins and two draws in their final eight games to secure the Championship crown.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: SUCCESS
Without a shadow of a doubt, Bournemouth were invigorated by the UAE. Probably the most successful trip.

Newcastle United
Having lost Pardew on January 2nd, Newcastle pressed on with the pre-arranged mid season Dubai trip, under the stewardship of new manger John Carver.

Having won only two games in 10 attempts before the camp, the Magpies’ trip was disrupted due to unusually stormy weather, which forced the players to train indoors during their January stay.

Due to the inclement conditions, it left some players questioning the validity of the trip, and Newcastle’s form remained unimpressive upon their return to Tyneside, winning just three of their final 16 fixtures and only avoiding relegation by four points.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: FAILURE
Again, the UAE did Newcastle’s run-in no favours. Incredibly lucky to keep their Premier League place.

2016

Sunderland
Then boss Sam Allardyce took the Black Cats to Dubai in search of saving their season and integrating new signings to the squad.

It is clear, as you’ll see from this list, that Allardyce is a big fan of these warm-weather camps in the emirate and last season it worked wonders.

Sitting second bottom and a point behind rivals Newcastle in the final relegation spot, Sunderland ended up keeping their place in the league in 17th place, two points above Newcastle who were relegated.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: An undoubted success story, with the club retaining their place in the Premier League and city rivals Newcastle going down at their expense.

Crystal Palace
Palace headed to Dubai at the same time as Newcastle last season with their season having already turned from European contention to mid-table hopefuls.

They sat 13th when Dubai loomed, having lost four of their last five Premier League games and without a win in that time.

Dubai didn’t aid their cause, Palace finishing 15th and only picking up two wins in their final 12 games and ten points in the process.

SUCCESS OR FAILURE: Their time under Alan Pardew went from bad to worse over the course of the second-half of last year and it led to his ultimate demise this season. Replacement Allardyce scheduled in another trip this year but cancelled it after his former club Sunderland battered them 4-0.


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