Manager Brian Barry-Barry spoke to www.rochdaleafc.co.uk about pre-season so far, as Dale prepare to take on Atherton Collieries in the first friendly of the summer on Wednesday evening…
The Boss very recently became a Dad for the second time, with his new arrival making an appearance during the first week of pre-season training.
“That was the main reason why I wasn’t at training for the first week,” said BBM.
“A few supporters in the line for Season Cards on Saturday were highly critical of my non-appearance in interviews, but I was obviously off for that week and that week remains a blur, but I’m glad to be back into it!” he laughed.
“I think the general consensus is that some of the lads were quite happy that I wasn’t here and probably enjoyed my absence. But as part of what you call the new normal, I was able to watch training in the evening.”
First team coach Lee Riley and Dale’s Head of Football Science and Performance Kevin Gibbins over saw the proceedings during the first week in his absence, and BBM is full of praise for the duo.
“One of the biggest positives to come out of the lockdown period was that we were able to retain the existing staff that we have here in Kevin and Lee who could quite easily have gone elsewhere. They attracted interest from Premier League Clubs in different capacities, so the fact that they were willing to stay and show that commitment to the Club and to the players is amazing.
“They’ve built up a relationship with the players where they are as one. We don’t have a system where the players see us as staff – the guys are all as one, and the fact that they’ve remained with the Club for this season is brilliant.
“Kevin and Lee have been integral in the development of so many of the young players that we’ve rightly lauded for the last couple of years. They’re the ones that have brought them right through the Academy process into the first team environment and have continued to develop them, so to retain their services in our first team environment, supported by Callum Jones [First Team Analyst] who is the brains behind the operation, is arguably the most important area of recruitment.”
After five months away due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the Boss says the players have returned to training in a great condition, but that building the fitness of the players is a gradual process that will take time.
“If I’m being totally honest, our guys were one of the last to come back off furlough in terms of our league. There are Clubs in our league that have been back a bit longer than us, so we’re probably behind in terms of our fitness and where we are, but that’s no problem for us and we’re very comfortable where we are.
“Rather than rushing things and putting pressure on guys to try and get them up to speed too quickly, we’re very patient and understanding of the players’ needs, so it’ll be a gradual process. It may take time and it may mean bedding into the early season as best as we can.
“The time away and the return to training feels perfectly normal now that we’re back into a routine and the players are just so desperate to get up to match speed as soon as possible. I find that we have to hold them back, and our lads here are typically very aggressive in their training demands and want to please Kevin from a fitness side of things. They are desperate to be in competition with each other to prove who the fittest is, so it’s very much a case of holding them back and building them up gradually rather than there being some sort of obsessive rush to be ready for the first game of the season, when we’ve only just found out when that’ll be.”
Dale face Northern Premier League side Atherton Collieries in a pre-season friendly on Wednesday evening, the first of the pre-season schedule.
“It’s no secret that the make up of our squad is very much up in the air at the moment. We have a group of what I would call established players, which is 11 or 12 strong, then the rest of the players are made up of our second year and first year pros or players from our Academy and Youth Team, so it’s mix and match in that sense.
“The players are at a very early and vulnerable stage in terms of being exposed to a large volume of minutes in that game, so it’ll be safety first on my part.
“All the players who are fit - even at this early stage, not everyone is fully ready to play the require amount of minutes - but large numbers of the squad will be exposed to 45 minutes and maybe a couple beyond that.”