WILL Vaulks doesn't care what the clock says when he opens his eyes on matchday.
Later, however, as kick-off draws nearer, it's one of the main things on the Rotherham United midfielder's mind.
The morning of a Millers game in the Laughton home Vaulks shares with girlfriend Alex is a relaxed affair.
But his attention to time rises as he drives to AESSEAL New York Stadium determined to hit the 1.30pm deadline for arrival set by manager Paul Warne.
Vaulks has a very good reason for not wanting to be late. Anything past 1.30 ... "It's a massive fine," he grimaces. "I mean, massive."
Here, the 25-year-old uses his weekly column to take us through his typical pre-match preparation on a New York Championship Saturday.
I'VE always been a player who's not too obsessed by routine.
When I was in the youth team at Tranmere Rovers and coming into my first year as a professional, I used to see a lot of older pros who were almost twisted up by their habits and routines.
A lot of the stuff from psychologists and mind-coaches in many sports is about routine. They think it's a really good thing. I do have a sort of routine but I try not to have any superstitions attached to it. I don't have to do the exact same thing.
I don't have to touch the lights or tap the windows or weird things like that. A lot of players I've seen have to put their shinpads on the same way or have to touch the doorframe three times or something like that before they walk out.
My normal routine is quite simple really. I'll have a big meal on Friday evening. Lots of pasta. I always home-cook that. On Saturday morning, I'll have a lie-in.
I don't have a set time for getting up. I just allow my body to wake up. I don't tend to set an alarm. I just get whatever sleep I need. It could be 10am, 10.30. It could be 9am depending on what time I went to bed.
I just allow myself to wake up naturally. I try to stay in bed for a bit of time. I go downstairs and get loads of fluids and stuff to have while I sit in bed.
Once I get up, I just want to get to the stadium. I just want to get on with the game. I drink loads of water and some 'rehydrate' stuff that helps. I'll have my pre-match food around 11.30, noon, or just when I fancy it, when I'm hungry.
I don't have to be eating at a certain time. I might have just got up, I might have been up for ages. I just eat when I feel like it.
My pre-match meal is a little odd. What I have at the moment is avocado on toast. I'll have some nice bread, not just like a slice of white but some nice sourdough or something. I find I can eat that fine.
Sometimes when we go to hotels for away games I struggle a little bit. It'll be like scrambled eggs, beans, chicken, salmon. I wouldn't have that naturally.
I'll watch a little bit of what's on TV, a bit of Soccer AM, or if I've got anything recorded I'll watch half an hour of that. Then I leave the house at about 12.45 to get to a home game.
We don't have to be there until 1.30 but, obviously, walking in, there can be a lot of fans around. I don't want to be late because that's a massive fine. I mean, massive!
I'll get some good music on in the car. If I feel a little bit too wound up for the game already - sometimes, you just wake up and think: 'I can't wait' - I'll try to play something a little bit calmer, a bit of 80s chill; Earth, Wind & Fire; George Benson.
If I'm in the mood for something harder, I'll have Liam Gallagher or Led Zeppelin, Thin Lizzy maybe, Queen. It's the stuff I grew up with my dad playing - songs in the car and all that - and I've managed to pick up his tastes. Occasionally I'll have a bit of old-school dance music.
I walk into the stadium and usually there'll be someone there that I know. Not my family - they don't really go to the games - but usually there's a fan from my old club, Falkirk, that I've sorted out a ticket for or they've decided to come to the game by themselves. More so this season because Falkirk haven’t been doing very well!
Maybe it's my nieces and nephews or someone I've seen on the way in. I'll have a chat with them. I'll sign some stuff and then it's 'game on' really.
When you wake up, you instantly think about the game. I try to avoid too much about the game too soon, otherwise it all becomes a bit too intense. You're wasting your mental energy on it early on.
At the ground, I try to chat to all the kids who come into the dressing room to get things signed. I take my time getting changed. Some of the lads are in their kit straightaway. If I do that, I just want to get out on the pitch, and then I have to waste some time and energy until I can.
I wait until I need to get changed. Maybe that's 20 minutes later. Then I get into my usual routine. I might have a little massage or have some strapping done. By waiting to get changed, I don't have to delay anything. I'm then just ready to go.
Once I go out for the warm-up, that's it ... absolute 'game head' on.
This column first appeared in the Advertiser
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