With the league opener just a day away, chief club reporter Liam Drury spoke to manager Scott Bartlett to gather his thoughts on pre-season.
I think it’s been good, I think we’ve found a lot out about the players as individuals as well as them as a collective group. I thought we were going to be a bit disjointed at times, which to be fair I don’t mind as long as we’re as ready as we can be for August the 10th when we play Hendon at home.
For you, has this pre-season been more about the performance rather than the results with a new squad?
Of course, I think you’re just looking for the team gelling. I remember coming in on the very first day of pre-season, brand new team, new set of staff, new everything and it being a focused but quiet group. Now, they look like they’ve been together for quite a long time. We have been looking at a couple of different ways of playing which can help us be adaptable. It’s important we find a way of doing this while maintaining our ethos and our playing style. We want to be aggressive, we want to play good football and get the ball forward quickly, to be dynamic and attacking but we have to build a solid foundation, which I think we’ve started to put together now.
Are you happy with how the players have gelled so far?
Yeah, they look a good mix. We’ve done a lot of homework, the senior players have been brilliant and the young lads are full of enthusiasm and honesty. I think that we’ve got a good balance with Lairdy having a foot in both camps too, myself also being experienced with working alongside young players and senior players in my role at Forest Green Rovers and here before.
To be accepted into our group, you’ve got to be honest, work hard and be good enough because we’ve got a strong group now and high standards.
Are you happy with where your squad is at or is there still a couple of new faces to come in?
We’re also looking, potentially, at a left-sided defender which would enable us to use Lairdy wherever we want him.
Other than that, we are happy with our squad and the balance of it. Our three latest additions Connor, Joel and Aaron are good signings for us and all have the potential to play higher. We made our early signings on the assumption that Cane and Pope would be with us so we have had to adapt a little bit but that’s football and we are happy.
You beat Taunton in the Somerset Premier Cup Final during pre-season. How happy were you with that performance in the first competitive game of the new season?
It was very competitive, as you would expect given the local rivalry and it had a bit more on it than an average pre-season game which was valuable before the season starts. I thought the way that we played and the way we controlled the tempo of the game and managed moments where we was under the cosh a little bit was really, really pleasing.
If he carries on developing at the rate he is, Sam won’t be with us for long. He’s that good, in my opinion. I have an opinion that he will have a career in the Football League.
Ryan Jones has made the step up from the Academy to the First Team. Have you been happy with when you’ve had to call upon him this pre-season?
Yes, I see Ryan as a first team player. I don’t see him as an academy player now. Although it’s brilliant that he can go and dip into that when we feel like he needs to get some minutes, which we’ve done to top him up during pre-season. He’s got bags of ability and he’ll get better and better. His decision making will get better, but the hard things to coach such as his movement, his technique, his bravery when he’s on the ball to take somebody on and make things happen. We all think that he’s got a bright future, and he’s one that we look forward to developing.
How important have the senior players been in helping this new squad to gel?
They are valuable of course and set the standard of what is expected on and off the field.
You’ve got lots of leaders in that dressing room. You’ve given Tindle the armband. Was that an easy choice to make?
Like I said a month ago, the more captain’s you’ve got, the better. Greg’s a natural leader and plays in a position where he can influence the team well so it makes total sense for him to have the armband.
Yeah, I can’t wait. The start of the season will be interesting. We are looking forward to getting on with it now. Of course as a manager of a new group, you approach the games with a cautious excitement. Let’s see where we are in October/November time and take it from there