The summer friendlies have brought a slight change in role for defender Jack Armer, who can now be found patrolling up and down in the left wing back position, with what is a clear licence to get forward as much as possible in support of the attacking play.
Heading into his third season with the club, and still only 21, he confirmed after the Morecambe outing on Saturday that he’s feeling as good as he’s felt after what has been a tough pre-season.
“The first three or four weeks of the summer were really tough, the toughest I’ve seen so far in a pre-season, but I do feel we’re a lot fitter going into the season because we’ve been through that,” he said.
“I think if we compare ourselves to last year, we are a lot fitter and stronger. There’s a lot more positivity in the camp, especially going into next Saturday.
“Even though this was a draw with no goals, everyone in the changing room is talking about how we played, and it’s all about well dones and things like that.
“We’ve just been away, it was a great week away in Scotland, and we’ve come back and it feels like we’re all together. It means we’re all looking forward to the season.”
Speaking more about the Morecambe draw, he commented: “I think we played well and we had plenty of chances. They had one on the break in the first half, but for a pre-season game I think the quality was an indication of what’s going to happen in the season.
“There were tackles flying in, Mells got booked, but it was a decent standard and everyone was up for it. I think it was one of the best pre-season games I’ve played in.
“The tempo was good, the standard was good and there was a bit of bite between the two sides. It’s the game I’ve played in most relatable to a league game.
“And it feels really solid at the back. I played 90 minutes on Tuesday against Livingston and even though we got beat they only had one shot in the first 80 minutes, so that was just one of those games.
“It does feel a lot more solid and we’ve got great cover in the midfield as well. We’ve also got Corey to come on and there are plenty of other players who can do a job and slide in nicely.”
On his licence to get up and down, he commented: “It’s good, but it’s hard work. It’s a lot harder than playing in the middle or even as a normal winger, but it’s really enjoyable.
“I know I should have scored a lot more goals last season and I’ve had chances this summer as well, and hopefully I can add that to my game. It’s just about getting up and down and getting plenty of crosses in as well.
“The gaffer keeps telling me to get in at the back stick and I can hear him screaming on the sideline to encourage that.
“You’ve got to get in there to score and that’s the same with crossing the ball, you’ve got to get up there to be able to do it in the first place. And then you have to run back to keep it out, so you’ve got to be able to keep that going.
“Going forward the manager could try out different shapes or different ways to play, and you have to fit into the way he wants to do that. He’s screaming at me to get up and down so that’s all I’m trying to do. We have that depth and there’s plenty of people who can step in, so you have to be on your game.”
Playing well brings with it the type of confidence you simply can’t put a price on, and the hope is that the good pre-season will translate into a good start to the campaign.
“There’s a really good vibe about the place,” he agreed. “We are a strong side, we’ve got a good eleven, and then there’s plenty to come off the bench. Looking into the season we should be doing ok.
“We know everyone is going to work for each other and if one person doesn’t get there somebody else will cover.
“Everybody has been around each other for the week in Scotland, you’re living on top of each other basically, but it’s not like you’re getting sick of each other.
“Everybody was having a good craic and it’s that team bonding thing that happens. We had a psychologist come in on the Thursday and we spoke about what we want to do this season, and how we might go about doing that.
“You can see today that everybody was working hard for each other and that’s what happens when you’re all playing for the team.”
Casting an eye back to the end of February, he spoke about how the feeling then was the polar opposite to how the group feels now with just four days to go until the season kicks off.
“It was weird,” he told us. “After the Swindon game, I know there was still a few games left, but we were down there and things felt really grim.
“Even coming into training was tough, and then we won six out of seven and the atmosphere totally changed.
“That changed the way everybody was thinking about going into games and it was then about making sure we took that into this year.
“When we were down the bottom we still wanted the fans to get behind us, but we got booed off a few times, and rightly so.
“We weren’t doing great, but since Simmo came in the crowds have been behind us and that definitely does help.
“They cheer us on even when we go behind and there’s no longer the feeling that we can’t get back in the game. It feels like we’ll go on and win.
“And working with Simmo has been great. Last year we were all trying to understand how he wants us to play.
“Sometimes it was a little bit tricky but this year, with a full pre-season, you can hear him shouting down there during the game - get in at the back post, defend the back post. It’s hard work but it gets results, and that makes us all happy.”
But now, of course, it’s all about Saturday.
“Hopefully there’ll be a big crowd, because we saw last year when the new gaffer came in that the crowds lifted, even away from home,” he said. “There were so many fans travelling all over the place and the support under Simmo has been great. It would be good to see that again and for us to get off to a winning start.
“This is my third year here and I think it’ll be the biggest season so far. It’s another one to improve, another one to play a load of games.
“I just want it to be a positive one, and we want to be at the top of the table looking to get promoted.
“I want to play as many games as possible and as a team we want to go up. Like I say, we spoke to the psychologist and when we went round the room pretty much everybody said, we want to go up and why can’t we do that.
“I think we’ve got a good enough squad and it’s just a case of, why can’t it be us.”
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