Extra time with Nathan Craig: Preparing for a match, defeat to Arsenal and recovering the right way

Each week A Different League will talk to Everton’s Wales U-21 international midfielder Nathan Craig on the big issues surrounding football and what life is like as a young Premier League professional. This week, Nathan shares his thoughts on preparing for a game and the aftermath of a defeat after Everton Reserves’ 4-1 loss to Arsenal on Monday.

“I don’t think it was a 4-1 game as we went 1-0 up and missed a couple of chances and on another day we would have finished them, but unfortunately Arsenal came back and equalised before half time,” says Craig, before going on: “It just shows how important it is to take your chances when you’re playing against big teams like Arsenal. And when they came out second half with the strong wind, and with that extra bit of skill and experience that they showed you could tell it was going to be a tough half.

“We conceded two goals from corners and that killed the game off. So as I say, on another day if we took our chances in the first half it might have been a different score line.”

Craig came up against the highly-rated Henri Lansbury, an England U-21 international with 61 club appearances to his name for Arsenal, Watford and Scunthorpe United, and feels, much like the match itself, his personal duel was the proverbial game of two halves. “Lansbury played right wing and it was a good experience for me to play up against him as he’s made several first team appearances. I think I did well first half as the game was only 1-1 but didn’t do much second half as we were defending for the most of the game and they had the wind advantage in their favour.”

Preparing correctly for a game is a key part of any professional’s life, and Craig knows how important it is to fuel the body in the right way at all times. “It’s vital to watch what we eat anyway, not only a day before the game. It’s important to make sure we eat a large meal the night before a game and make sure we drink plenty of fluids. Water is the best to keep you hydrated.” Craig added: “We only train half a day on the day before a match. We do some possession, play a little practice game and then work on some set pieces.

“They also say the more rest you have the more energy you get on the football pitch, so I do tend to rest a lot. That doesn’t mean you have to sleep, but sticking your feet up and watch a film or as some of the lads do, play FIFA.”

The recovery following a match is the same regardless of the result, says Craig, who played the full 90 minutes: “The day after we’re normally in for a warm down – that includes the bike, stretching and hot and cold baths. Then we go on to analyse the positives and the negatives from the game for next time.”

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