Manager Keith Curle spoke to the official website on Thursday morning about the excellent attitude he’s seen from his players since their return to pre-season eight days ago.
“We’ve changed pre-season a little bit,” he explained. “It’s more football orientated so the footballs have been out right from day one. The players were given their off-season programme to do and told to keep in mind that the intensity of the football training was going to be two weeks ahead of where we were last year.
“The players have come back in very good shape. They had their bleep test on Tuesday and that gives them an indication of where they’re at so we can move them onto the next level of our pre-season. Cassius Camps is on the agenda again but we’re going to do it slightly differently this time. I can’t tell you how, but I can tell you the players aren’t looking forward to it!”
On the settling in process for the four new signings, he said: “The introduction of new players always helps because it brings new personalities and new characters into the changing room.
“Those players are buying into the characteristics we’ve already got here. The banter before training is excellent, but as soon as we start work the players get switched on and enjoy what they’re being asked to do.
“At every football club I’ve been to, the successful clubs are those who have a very welcoming environment. That isn’t just within the changing room, but in the whole football club.
“The new players have been introduced to the office staff this week so they’re familiar with everyone inside the club and the work they do. If the players need anything outside the changing room they know where to go and who to go to.”
As to whether there’s been any sign of lingering disappointment with those players who were with the club at the end of last season, he said: “The play-off defeat is gone. It’s been touched on and mentioned but we walked out of Exeter City proud of what we’d achieved over the whole season.
“People celebrating in the opposition changing rooms has happened to me before, and we’ve gone on to be successful ourselves the following season, so you never know.
“We’ve said it before but we want to maintain the level of progression we’ve been seeing year-on-year. We want to get better players in the building, get a better output and get more consistence results.
“The players have been set the targets we achieved last season, but we need to get more points, a better league position, longer runs in the cups, score more goals and keep more clean sheets. They are all achievable targets in my opinion, particularly with the quality we have in the changing room.”
As well as the four new arrivals there are also the four scholars who earned first-year development contracts [Morgan Bacon, Jack Egan, Jordan Holt and Cameron Salkeld] who have also taken their place within the group.
“The four development players joined us for the first time on Wednesday morning and then again for yesterday’s long session,” he told us. “They came back in with the youth team last Monday because they knew that part of their initial development was to earn the right to come and train with us.
“They’ve been offered their contracts and that was the first step of their professional career. Now it’s about coming back into the building and showing that they’re ready to push on. Everything they do in training will be noted by Darren [Edmondson] and me because we want them to improve and stake a claim because they’ve earned the right.
“The next step is to see how long they can stay with us in training and where they will get their game time. When they go out onto the pitch they’ve got to perform, that’s the exciting part about it.
“I’ve given a lot of young players their professional debut so I’ve got an eye for talent. It’s the same for these lads. They’ve been given an opportunity to get a contract and now they’ve got to earn game time.”
And with news emerging on Thursday afternoon that an offer for Barrow forward Richie Bennett had been turned down by his current club, he confirmed that work on securing more new signings was ongoing.
“We’re always looking to improve,” he commented. “Players might move on and money might become available whereby we can introduce new dynamics into the squad. We’re always looking and maintaining a level of interest in players we think may come available.
“Whatever we do we want it to be effective. I think one of the lessons we’ve learned is that in the last two years as a football club we haven’t been able to be proactive in January. Last season that was probably even more the case with the sale of Charlie Wyke coming so late in the transfer window.
“That’s where it isn’t ideal. Ideally you’d like to do your business early in January, identify the targets, bring them in and integrate them, whilst also hoping you don’t have to lose players.”
Next in line in the pre-season training programme are three games in the space of five days against local opposition [Carlisle City, 8 Jul; Penrith, 11 Jul; Workington, 12 Jul].
“Something I’ve brought to the football club is that to get fit for football you play football,” he said. “There is no better way to get ready than by playing games. All of the players will be getting 45 minutes on Saturday as a minimum.
“We’ve then got Penrith and Workington on Tuesday and Wednesday where the whole squad will be rotated and play a minimum of 45 minutes, hopefully touching 60 minutes for quite a few of them.
I think the games we play against our local teams are important ...
“I think the games we play against our local teams are important. It’s a good opportunity for the local supporters to come and see the players outside their local environment, without having a three to four hour journey for an away game.
“We’re looking forward to them and it’s a good chance for everyone to come and see the lads as they start to dust themselves off again.”
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