Striker Lewis Alessandra broke through the 500 career appearance barrier last season and he spoke after the game at Workington on Saturday about how much he still looks forward to pre-season, albeit perhaps without the searing temperatures felt at the weekend.
“It was so hot, the conditions were tough but it’s the same for both teams,” he said. “Workington like to play football from the back so it was a good workout for everyone. We’ve come out of it unscathed, no injuries, that’s the main thing.
“Getting this amount of pitch time is perfect in terms of the schedule we’re on. In terms of pre-season, you just have to embrace it in my opinion.
“A lot of the old-school running, it’s not the same any more, you don’t go running up mountains and all that, a lot of it is football based. Mentally it’s probably a bit easier because you’ve got a ball at your feet, but I always say half of running is in your head anyway.
“I say to the lads, if you’re at the front of the pack, you’re only five yards in front of everyone else but mentally you feel like you’re flying. It’s little things like that, I’ve done loads of pre-seasons now, you just have to embrace and enjoy it.”
The weekend saw a step up for every member of the squad from 45 minutes to a full 90 for the majority, with the match schedule split between two venues.
“Sometimes you just need to jump in at the deep end,” he commented. “The main thing is people coming out injury free and there’s no substitute for playing minutes and getting close to 90, it’s good.
“We go again on Tuesday at Chorley and then there’s a game on Wednesday, and we don’t know how it will work yet, but the lads will be looking to get as many minutes as possible and keep it close to match sharpness as possible.
“One thing we will not be able to do under the gaffer is slack off and not press and work hard, whether it’s two degrees in December or 26 or 27 degrees, or whatever it is today. I don’t think the gaffer really cares what temperature it is, working hard is something you have to do.
“The games are coming thick and fast at the moment and you’ve just got to recover as quick as possible and go again. You put in as much as you can because it’s about staying as fresh but injury free as well.”
Both the Workington and Hebburn games brought more goals and clean sheets, even though the experienced forward was quick to remind us that this is still a very early stage of pre-season.
“The result doesn’t really matter but it is nice to win and score goals,” he admitted. “A lot of people are looking really sharp in front of goal. Zach Clough scored and set others up, you can see that quality he’s got.
“Manny took his goal well, I’m really happy for him, he worked the line well. It’s good to be ruthless this early on and we’ve got another couple of weeks to keep improving before the season starts.
“Obviously we’re all looking forward to the Colchester game but I feel sometimes too much is put on that first game of the season, like it’s a small cup final because everyone’s missed it for so long.
“All of the games are important, but that’s the one we’re working towards, and then we’ll be straight into the thick of it. We want to be as sharp and good as we possibly can be come that Colchester game so that we can start the season as well as possible.”
On the new additions on show, he said: “We’ve brought some quality in even though we’ve not signed that many players. The gaffer wanted to keep the main core and nucleus that we had last year and did well for such a long period of the season, and add to it.
“I remember playing against Tristan last year for Newport and he was a handful. The new lads are all great lads, which is always a plus, because you want to create that nice but competitive environment where everyone’s pulling in the right direction, and hopefully that direction’s upwards as high in the league as possible.
“Like I say you can see we’ve brought some quality in, there’s quality in every position, and if we do pick up an injury or suspension there’ll be someone chomping at the bit to step in.
“We’ve got all different personality types as well. You’re not going to have 11 Roy Keanes all screaming at each other, I can imagine there would be fight after fight every week.
“You need different personalities. I feel I’m an encourager. Some people lead by example and get about their job quietly. I’m really happy for Callum getting the armband, I’m sure he’ll take that responsibility on even more and come out of his shell even more.
“Cal last year was probably one who captained by example, just in his performances, doesn’t need to say much, just the way he plays. You know what you’re getting every week, an 8 or 9 out of 10, which is why he got all the accolades he did.”
“The aim for us going into the new season has to be for us to go one better than last year,” he told us. “Because of the way the season panned out, and where we were on 2 January, it almost felt like a bit of a failure towards the end.
“The way we went from top of the league to finishing tenth, if you take stock and look at it from where we were the season previous, you’ve got to say, we’ve done ok. It’s just the way it went it meant it didn’t feel like that at the time.
“We’ll most certainly be looking to go one better this year and be right up there, I don’t see why we can’t with the quality we’ve kept and brought in.
“And, of course, we’ve missed the fans. They do give you that extra boost sometimes. It’s good for the fans to be back – this is their club, they want to be watching us and watching us doing well.”
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