United’s return to pre-season training last Thursday brought a first meeting for many of the squad with new manager John Sheridan and two members of his backroom staff – Tommy Wright and Paul Murray.
Speaking about that first meeting this week, he said: “Some of the players met me for the first time so that meeting was an important thing.
“Likewise, I know what type of players we have here, but I still need to find one or two of them out character wise. First impressions always matter and I’m pleased to say that we’re all getting on well.”
The first session was met by record June temperatures, but there was no hiding as the players were put through their first intensive session.
“The weather is what it is,” he commented. “We’d be complaining if it was chucking it down as well, so we just have to do what we have to do. It’s pre-season so whatever the weather is doing, we’re still going to be working very hard.
“To be fair, the players look great. They’ve had eight or ten weeks off, most of them, but they’re in good shape and they’ve done everything we’ve asked of them really well.
“It’s different these days anyway because you tend to get the footballs out much earlier. Back in the day you’d see us all being sick in the bushes because we did that much running, but players are in totally different shape now. They know they have to be fit when they come back or they just get left behind.”
“The ground is very firm at the moment, because of the amount of heat, and ideally we’d like a bit of rain to soften it up,” he continued. “All you can do is work to the conditions you’ve got, and we haven’t heard any complaining.
“We eased everybody back into it last week but the lads all understand that pre-season is about getting fit. The senior players have been joined by a batch of younger lads, so it’s new for them and they can learn just by being with the older players.
“The likes of Liddle, Jones and Grainger have done a number of pre-seasons now, and I’ve told the younger players to feed off it and to be selfish as they look to claim a place in the starting eleven. That’s what it’s all about when it comes down to it.”
Very noticeable was that early introduction of the football as the players conducted their first set of passing and moving drills within seconds of completing the warm-up.
“I’ve told the group a lot over the past few days that I’m a big believer in taking care of the ball,” he explained. “These boys can all run anyway, they all make sure of that, but if they can’t take care of a ball they might as well not be at a football club.
“It doesn’t matter what position you are, from keeper to up front, you have to be comfortable in possession of the ball as far as I’m concerned. We’ve seen with young Sam Adewusi, he was well ahead in the running practices, but he did that without the ball.
“Having said that, he’s done himself no harm. He’s a young kid, but he’s a good size. I don’t know too much about him, he’s a bit quiet, and I’d like him to open up a little bit more. When you look at him, he’s a specimen, and he’s been brilliant with his running, so that’s a good start for the lad.”
“I tend not to look too much at players who can run the quickest or furthest,” he confirmed. “It’s about getting the fitness levels up for all of them.
“We’re all different, with different strengths and weaknesses, so it’s about bonding them as a group and getting them to feed off each other to make us a decent team.”
On the use of trial players, he added: “Pre-season is a good opportunity to look at them. The way I see it is that you don’t get a proper understanding of them until you start playing the friendly fixtures.
“Training is all well and good, and we will bring people in, but if it’s possible I’d like to see what they do in a game situation. I like to judge them in that environment rather than on their ability to run or to pass the ball in a controlled environment.
“It’s always worth bringing trial players up because, you never know, one or two might just catch the eye.”
“Adam Collin is up with us this week and he’s someone I know from Notts County,” he said. “The situation is that we’re after another keeper. Joe Fryer is with us, but I need another one to compete with him. I’ve had one or two in mind, but Adam is a good keeper, he’s experienced and he’s a great lad.
“If we can sort a deal out for ourselves, which suits us and Adam, I’ll take him all day long. It has to be the right circumstances, so we’re working on that. He knows how I am, he knows I like him, so we’re just looking to sort something out.
“He’s only been with us since Monday so I haven’t really spoken to him in depth. I just wanted to see what shape he was in initially, but we’ll sit down and look at where we can take things.”
Another player who joined the squad at the start of the week is former-Forest forward Lewis Walters, who made 15 appearances on-loan with Barrow last season.
“He’s come up here to have a look and to train with us,” he said. “His agent was on to us, he’s a player who is looking for a club, and he has a good pedigree. He knows a bit about this part of the country and he wants to start again.
“We’ll have a look at him and we’ll see where it goes. There’ll be a few more trialists who come along because, like I say, you just never know.”
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