With the squad now in full pre-season mode following a sweltering day of training on both Thursday and Friday, and a tough afternoon of testing on Wednesday, there’s already a clear sense that minds are focussed on the work to be done as all roads lead towards the opening day fixture at home to Crawley at the end of July.
And a new season means that positions are up for grabs, with every player under the spotlight with almost every move they make.
“Every player has to be at it,” manager Paul Simpson said. “I think I’d be a bit naïve if I thought it was a clean slate because I’ve seen them all for 15 games, just over ten weeks, but we now do have some new players coming in.
“Along with the new signings, Taylor Charters will come back into it and Tristan Abrahams will come back into it, so we’ve got those players who were away through the second half of the season in the time I was here, and I suppose it’s a bit of a clean slate for them in a way.
“But it’s one of those things where they’ve all got to show that they deserve to play. What I’ve said to them today is that last season I didn’t feel as though I had a group of starters.
“I call them starters and finishers, that’s something I took from the FA, and that’s about having a group of players who can come on and finish a game.
“Now, they’re really important, but what I want is a bigger group of players who I believe can start for us.
“We’ve got to get as many players into this football club who are good enough to start games. That’s not just good enough to sit on the bench and make up the seven finishers, they’ve got to be good enough to come and start for us. That’s what I want to try and get.”
“I think we’re getting closer to it,” he continued. “But, and as I said last season, this isn’t a situation that’s just going to magically change overnight.
“There’s going to have to be a bit of an evolution as opposed to a revolution. It’ll take a little bit of time to change it.
“This is our first opportunity to put better players into the group, or what we hope will be better players, and over time hopefully we can keep developing it and get the football club to where I think everybody involved wants it to be.”
A change to the substitution rules for 2022/23 means that five changes can be made within the 90 minutes across three separate sub events.
“It makes a difference,” the gaffer agreed. “It doesn’t change anything in regard to the numbers we can have on the bench, but it does give you a few more options.
“I’ve had it in international football so I’m used to it, but to be honest it can sometimes be a hindrance, because you’re trying to think about too many things.
“As a coach it’s a really funny feeling because once you’ve made that third substitution you sort of have a bit of a sigh of relief.
“You think, right, I can’t actually do any more. You don’t have anything more you can do with subs, so your focus is then on the game.
“I don’t know, it’ll be interesting to see how it goes. It’s one of those things managers have been banging their drum about at Premier League level, but we’ll just have to see how it goes.
“I wasn’t involved in the substitution situation through Covid, so I wasn’t party to how it affected coaching and management there. It’s new for me in terms of the football league so let’s see how it goes.”
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