Whenever I go away somewhere, I like trying to speak as much of the language as possible, as a show of respect to the people whose country I'm visiting and because I'm a bit of a language geek as well. I'm fine in France,  passable in Portugal and Italy, and I've made a valiant effort in Vietnam. 

But Dutch? Dutch eludes me. Beyond 'dank je wel', which means 'thank you very much' (and admittedly has come in useful) and a handful of other phrases, I've struggled with conversation this week. Every time one of the lovely and patient locals chatters away to me in Dutch I have to shrug and apologise, which marks me out as an outsider - because *nobody* says sorry in the Netherlands. 

They even have a saying, 'There are no sorrys in life', which sums up their approach to apologising. It's quite refreshing, really, but a bit alien for someone like me who tends to start most emails or texts with, 'Sorry to bother you...'

Anyway, I have tried to speak Dutch, but after the women in the local bakery snorted at my attempts to pronounce broodje  (sandwich), maybe it's for the best if I muddle along in English, for which I can only say... 


Wednesday brought with it heavy rain in the morning that gave way to unexpected sunshine in the afternoon, just in time for Hibs to take on MSV Duisburg in the first of two friendlies during this training camp. Despite the Germans having fallen into the fourth tier - they were in the Bundesliga as recently as 2007/08 and even in the second tier in 2019 - they aren't a bad side although they do struggle to deal with Martin Boyle's pace and a number of niggly fouls are given away as the friendly game threatens to become anything but.

Boyle has the last laugh though as his free kick from the right wing after being poleaxed by the Zebras' left-back is bundled home by Josh Campbell, who now has two goals in two friendly matches. Rumours the PAOK scouts peeking through the bushes have decided to put two men on the midfielder in Saturday's friendly are unconfirmed, however. 

The second half of the game petered out until Élie Youan, making his first appearance since mid-April, thundered a header off the crossbar in the dying moments. It was a decent result for both sides: Hibs got more minutes, the win, and a clean sheet, and Duisburg could be satisfied with a decent result against a significantly better team.

MSV Duisburg's zebra busMSV Duisburg's zebra bus (Image: Patrick McPartlin)

The one thing the Germans did win on the day was 'best mode of transport'; their bright blue coach complete with unsettlingly large zebra graphic on the back, in a nod to their club crest, was as impressive as it was stripy. Not sure a bright green Park's of Hamilton bus would look quite as swish with Sunshine the Leith Lynx plastered across the back of it, mind you. 


After Wednesday's friendly, Thursday was a designated day of ice baths and recovery for the Hibs players, starting off with coffee in the town centre as a nice, easy beginning to the day.

On the one hand, it must be nice for the players to know they're not going to be run into the ground on the training pitch. But on the other hand, they must be well aware that, with another game on Saturday, Friday is likely to be another agonising triple-session day.

The one positive for the players is that it feels a bit less muggy this morning than it did yesterday. Not that it will feel like that after ten minutes of shuttle runs and small-sided exercises.