Always a topic for discussion during pre-season is the appearance of trialists who, on some occasions, can take up over half of the team sheet as managers and coaches use the opportunity to assess potential new signings during their friendly fixtures.
But manager Chris Beech insisted at his first press conference last week that he wouldn’t be bringing non-contracted players in just for the sake of it, with a much more measured approach to trial players being adopted.
Speaking about it again at his second presser of the summer this morning, he said: “We are still looking at trialists, but I think one of the better things we’ve managed this season is having the players in the building at this point rather than waiting for loans and things like that.
“If you’re doing it that way it means you’re in a situation you don’t control, whereas now we can look to build and assess what we have.
“With those we had, joe has gone back to Middlesbrough because he’s got a slight groin strain. He has a situation at Middlesbrough where they will look after his needs to a degree; it’s not rehab, because it’s past rehab.
“He’s fit to play but when you’ve not done something for two years, you’ve got to get in rhythm and play again. He’s picking up little niggles and a slight groin strain, he’s sorting that out at Middlesbrough, and we’ll have to see what happens.”
“Junior [Mondal] has picked up a little hamstring injury, which is unfortunate,” he continued. “It was a shame because he was due to play 90 minutes at Gateshead so we could have made a decision on him, so that becomes more difficult.
“He’s still with us. I would never let anybody leave the building that’s not right anyway. That needs sorting out. It’s only minimal and he was due to play on Tuesday. These things work themselves out.”
Spotted on the training ground by eagle-eyed fans this past week was Dean Furman, an experienced midfielder who has spent the last five years playing in the South African Premier League, and who has represented his country close to 100 times.
“Dean is a very professional man with a lot of international caps for South Africa,” the manager told us. “He’s a midfield player with great experience and knowhow. He’s training with us and he’s another who was due to play on Tuesday night, but couldn’t due to paperwork. With a bit of luck, he’ll be available this weekend.
“I think he’s got a young child now and he’s always had a base near Manchester, so he’s looking to get a club back in this country. I spoke to him at length the other day and he said he would encourage anybody to open up their horizons about playing abroad.
“He seems to be big news in South Africa, when you google his name apparently there’s a video of him eating his breakfast live on tv. He’s a very good player, I remember watching him play for Oldham, so we’ll hopefully be able to see him in a game this weekend.”
And looking back at Tuesday night’s friendly at the International Stadium, he said: “We thank Gateshead for taking the game on. It’s a community stadium so they have to go through processes themselves to get it on.
“They’ve only recently stopped playing so their lads were pretty much match fit anyway. It was a good game on a great pitch and at a good venue. Importantly it was 90 minutes for quite a few of the lads.
“It’s about match fitness in these games because we haven’t really done set plays, or shape and the other things where you’re going into a must-win type situation. I’m looking for the traits that we’ve been talking about and encouraging in training.
“That’s where I want to see pressing, a response to setbacks and working in a no-excuse environment. I want players to do what they do and if it doesn’t go quite right, go and get it back.
“I looked back at the match and, having seen the footage, it was probably a little bit better than I first thought on the night. There was a lot of energy and a lot of breaking forward in groups, and we had good endeavour in midfield when getting the ball back.
“If you’re going to be over-critical of the performance I would like to see us pass the ball a little bit better. All-in-all I thought it was an excellent training exercise.”