Manager Keith Hill spoke to www.rochdaleafc.co.uk at the end of Dale’s seven day pre-season camp in Tenerife…
“I’m cautiously happy,” said the Gaffer.
“The squad is competitive. They look at each other and they see the depth, the quality and they see the experience. They also see the young players who are capable of performing in this environment, and it’s encouraging.
“Realistically, you want to carry this feeling and this squad into the league campaign.
“This is the easiest time of the season to be a manager/ coach because there are no failings, but as soon as soon as the ball starts rolling and the first whistle of the live season goes, psychologically things change and results have big impacts, but at the minute, the pre-season friendlies we’re playing are just preparation.
“But preparation is going really well. The players have been magnificent - there’s a big character/ attitude swing towards the work we’ve been doing, which is encouraging. And the quality that has been on display is down to the players themselves. We’re not coaching specific techniques; we’re coaching tactics - in possession/ out of possession/ ball in play/ ball out of play, but the individual skills that are on show are down to the players and their attitude towards being creative/ destructive if you’re being a defender, bearing in mind that we want the ball.”
He continued: “This pre-season, there’s a bit of a buzz left over from last season’s achievement of staying in League One when everybody had written us off, so there’s that momentum being carried on. That mood swing and that positivity, and the players who have been retained look at the players we’ve brought in and they see the quality and they feel it. I think there’s a confidence amongst the squad because they’re looking at the competitive nature.
“Last season I was relying on players who probably wouldn’t have played if I had a deeper squad/ a better, fitter squad, so I was relying on players who knew that they were going to play regardless of whether or not they were lacking in form or they didn’t like the way things were done, because all of these things happen during the course of a 46-game season. I don’t have to rely on players who aren’t potentially all in to the way I like things done, so from that point of view, it’s a real benefit to have a deeper, more experienced, quality squad.
“There is a quality to this squad, there’s no question about that. That has been reflected in the training and it has been reflected in the way the staff are performing. Everybody wants to work, they don’t find it hard having to work hard, and that’s what the staff want - you want players who want to be better.”
He added: “You look at the squad on paper and it looks like a good squad. When you’re on the training pitch, it feels like a good squad and it performs like a good squad, but we haven’t kicked a ball in anger yet. That’s the league campaign and that’s where we’ll have to be judged, but I certainly feel in a better place stood here right now than I did last season.
“Last season, during this training camp, I wasn’t very confident, but now I am confident without being over the top ‘wow, we’re going to blow this league to pieces’. You just look at how strong League One is now and the amount of players who have been playing recently in the Championship and are now being picked up League One sides. It’s a very, very competitive league and it’s a very good league to be in.
“We’re achieving our goals which is preparing this team for the league campaign, and we’ve got a majority of a fit squad. We’ve got one player who is nursing a slight twinge and, again, that’s a real success. We’ve got a fitter group, who are a less injury prone group and that’s encouraging from a manager’s point of view. But like I said, there has got to be a calm feeling towards what we’re doing. The league campaign is just under three weeks away and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
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