Colchester United head up from Essex this weekend for the eagerly anticipated season opener – kick off 3pm on Saturday at Brunton Park.
New gaffer Hayden Mullins pulled no punches when he took over shortly after the end of the last campaign, with 11 players exiting the building within seven days of the last ball being kicked.
United boss Chris Beech spoke to us at his pre-match press conference about the challenge ahead.
“Outside looking in I do know they’re well run,” he said. “Prior to playing them the previous season I went to watch them play Manchester United in the cup; they had great cup runs, they were doing excellently in the league.
“They’ve had a change of manager since then and a change of direction. They had a business plan to make sure they dealt with the pandemic, and that’s what they did.
“It appears they’re in a position where they’ve invested and been able to recruit players, probably geographics as well, but some really established players from Ipswich, their neighbours.
“Good luck to them. They’ll come here full of ambition themselves and we’ve got to match and undermine their strengths.”
“Hayden will be determined to do well in his new post,” he added. “He played at a higher level himself as a player.
“As a younger manager he’s probably going to get a lot of help and support off the experience he has in his changing room. I’m sure he’s done that for rhyme and reason, not just because it’s mates rates.
“He’ll definitely be looking at what he can do this season, good luck to him, he seems like a great bloke. When he was helping out his manager last season, he always spent 5-10 minutes before the game for a football chat.
“Whether he’ll do that this time I’m not sure, but he seems like a great bloke. Better luck to him after Saturday, anyway.”
And on what we can expect from his team, he said: “They’re a really well organised football club. They were at the forefront of the pandemic, from a business perspective they made strong decisions to make sure they’re in a good financial position when the virus hit.
“They were the first club to look at releasing substantial players from their squad. They’ve reinvested now on the back of football coming back to normality.
“They’ve got experienced players, some from Ipswich, they’ve got the young lads they got involved last season. I know they’ve lost one of their attacking players but ultimately within that, and from their perspective I’m guessing it worked out really well.
“They’ll provide a good test, but we will for them as well. It’s like anything you do in your life. We’re on a journey over a nine-month period, and of course you get excited about the first one, like you do on your first day on holiday, but if you’re lucky enough you might have another 13 days.
“We’ve got the rest of the season, so it’s vital we look to prepare correctly and do our best, but to keep an eye on the longer game, and games, definitely. But I do want us representing everybody to the best of our abilities.
“Dave’s done an unbelievable job with the main pitch and training ground, we utilise that twice a day, had the sprinkler system on so the grass is in perfect condition, we’ve worked very hard on it to make sure we’re ready, but we’ve got to put the foundation to make sure we’re ready for the longer journey.
“We want to come out of the blocks but I’m sure Colchester have the same ambitious feelings. We have to make sure over the period of games we get it right.”
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