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MANAGER: We don't need to be rushing people back

Paul Simpson with an injury update

17 November 2022


MANAGER: We don't need to be rushing people back

Paul Simpson with an injury update

17 November 2022

The postponed Cumberland Cup game on Tuesday night threw a spanner in the works for a number of United’s returning injured players, with the heavy rain putting the mockers on the pitch time that had been scheduled as part of their journey towards full recovery.

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“Let’s be fair, we can’t do anything about the weather, but it does make things tricky,” manager Paul Simpson said. “I’ve mentioned before that this period through November, December and January can feel like a grind, and we’re in a good position as professional sports people, because it can be even more of a grind for people in other professions.

“We have to accept that we were unable to play on Tuesday but, being honest, the lads were looking forward to being out there. They got themselves prepared for it, and the only bonus for them is that they didn’t have to do the training session that day.

“They had a running session to do on their own, they went in the gym, and that was the right thing to do when you consider the timing of the game being called off in the afternoon.

“It’s set us back maybe a week in terms of players playing in games, but we’ve waited a long time for some of them, so we deal with whatever comes up and we move on.”

It’s an approach that has been consistent from a manager unwilling to take unnecessary risks with injuries, unless his hand is completely forced.

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“When you’ve had players missing for a serious length of time you just can’t afford to take any chances,” he reiterated. “We are quite fortunate at the moment because we had our 11 starters and eight who were available for the match day squad for the last game.

“Sonny Hilton was the one who missed out, and we’re now getting to a point where we’ll have a few more available.

“Joel Senior still isn’t right, he hasn’t had a game for over nine months, so we’ll continue to take care with him. We won’t be considering him for possibly another month, and the good thing at the moment is that we’ve got enough people available, so we don’t need to be rushing people back.

“We don’t need to make rash decisions and force people back when they maybe don’t feel in themselves that they’re ready.”

“Jamie Devitt has had a couple of weeks of training, so he’s in a better place,” he continued. “Duncan Idehen is fit and available for selection when we need him, Ben Barclay is enjoying his training, Tobi Sho-Silva has had another week, but we have to be mindful that some of them need games and pitch time.

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“In a week or two we’ve got another of our cup reserve games against Blackpool, and that’ll be a really good opportunity for us to get some of these lads more minutes. As we get closer to the busy Christmas programme we know we’ll need as many of them available as possible.

“With Jamie and Ben, I could easily sit here and lie and say they’ll be with us for Saturday to try and confuse Salford, but I don’t believe in that. It’s too early for them to be involved this weekend.

“More good news is that Gabe Breeze is fine. He would have been fit to play on Tuesday if the game had gone ahead. He’s had a couple of little niggly things he picked up in training but he’s fully fit and has trained over this week.

“And both Kris Dennis and Jack Stretton have trained fully this week. That helps in terms of being involved with the team on a match day. They’re back in the thinking.

“Kris does the things he has to do with the chiropractor and in the gym, but he’s a hard worker anyway. All of the other lads have trained well, and we’re in a better physical place than we have been for many weeks. Now we have to make sure that’s reflected in performances and results.”

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The gradual increase in available numbers, of course, means the kind of selection headache managers enjoy.

“I really do hope we get to that,” he agreed. “That’s what having a squad is all about. I want as many options as we can get.

“The selection headache comes on a Wednesday and Thursday because the players will know on Friday who is doing what. They’re all in it together, they understand that, and we’ve done some work today with different players in different positions, so I’ve kept them guessing a little bit.

“We’ll tell them on Friday morning and do the final bits of prep then. Then it’s fingers crossed come Saturday that we’ve made the right decisions.”

A free midweek next week leaves room for a friendly, should it be required?

“There isn’t really anything we can do about it,” he insisted. “We have enquired about getting these friendly games but they’re just not the same.

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“You can actually get as much physical output from a well-structured training session. We can put things on that give the players the physical stimulus they need, rather than doing it as a game where you’re not sure what the opposition will be like.

“We also have the lack of a training pitch that we can go and have a good game on, and that’s not a criticism, it’s just how it is. We’ll train next week, we’ll do what we need to do, as we have done this week.

“We’ve been up to the fantastic facility at Gretna because ours has been waterlogged, and it’s good that we have these relationships that mean we can do things like that.”

Expanding on this week’s weather affected schedule, he added: “If it rains heavily we only have the one pitch, and it’s prone to being heavy, so we plan for that.

“We’ve got the Neil Sports Centre, and let’s be realistic, that isn’t brilliant. It’s too small for any real structured work but we can certainly do a match day -1 session on there, because I try to do the tactics and team shape work on a Thursday.

“We’ve been able to do that on the full-size surface up at Gretna, so you won’t find us complaining about any of these situations.

“I’m pleased with what we were able to do, the players got stuck into it. We’ve done everything we planned.

“The work I wanted to do this week, the plan I was looking at going into the Salford game, I confirmed it last night watching them live, then we did the work today with the players.

“We wait and see where we have to go tomorrow. I don’t believe in worrying about things. I can’t affect these rainclouds and what it does to our pitch, we just have to get on with it.” 

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