Manager Brian Barry-Murphy says there’s a “real sense of optimism and excitement amongst the lads”, as Dale prepare to kick-off the season this Saturday.
It is almost six months to the day since Rochdale’s last competitive fixture and BBM admits the players are looking forward to the Carabao cup tie against Huddersfield Town.
“It’s brilliant that is has come around so quickly since we’ve come back to training,” he said.
“While we’re still very much in pre-season mode in terms of our preparations and where we are physically, our lads can’t be held back. As much as I have tried to play it down this week, there’s a real sense of optimism and excitement amongst the lads.
“It’s brilliant that we’re back playing, for the whole club. The sense of backing from the supporters since the season card launch has been overwhelming. We feel that support, we know it’s there and the players appreciate it. It’ll be very straight forward for us in terms of motivation and how we approach the game – it’s easy and we can’t wait for it.”
Reflecting on pre-season, BBM commented: “I think we’re miles behind in terms of actual timing, but we have a clear training plan devised by Kevin [Gibbins] and Ben [Ekins] that works for us brilliantly. My number one responsibility is to try and keep the players fit while maintaining the level of fitness that those guys can provide.
“We’re very comfortable where we are in terms of that and we’re not in a rush. We know exactly where we want to be, but we just can’t be at the level of where other teams are at this moment, because we were probably the last ones back off furlough. There are a host of clubs in our league that will be up to nine or ten weeks in, whereas we’re five weeks in, but that’s just the way of it. Like I said, we are in a good place as we assess how they progress physically.
“In terms of our football fitness or our game readiness, it’s just not possible to be at the levels of a team like Huddersfield. They completed their season then had a couple of weeks off before coming back into pre-season.
“It ties into a lot of things this season – people won’t give us a chance and people will say that we’re not on the same level competing wise, but our lads in the dressing won’t accept that, and I wouldn’t want them to. We’re going to go on Saturday and give it a right go, for as long as we can and as hard as we can and see where it takes us.”
Last season’s Carabao Cup proved to be memorable for Dale, after taking Manchester United to penalties at Old Trafford in the third round of the competition. It was a night that will never be forgotten and BBM says the players can draw on that experience, as well as the wins over Bolton Wanderers and Carlisle United in the earlier rounds.
“Our mindset going into those games last year was that we’d attack the teams. It was the Bolton and the Carlisle games that got us the glamour tie, if you like. The lads’ efforts were exemplary in those games and tomorrow it’s a similar mindset for us.
“People won’t give us any chance with the fixture being turned around, now that we’re going away from home to a team that was in the Premier League not too long ago, with a new manager that is rightly lauded for being part Marcelo Bielsa set-up at Leeds.
“But our whole mindset is that we are not going to be influenced by what outside noises say we should be. We don’t have to conform to what is the expected permutation of where we should end up this season. That’s not in our mindset and this group of lads will be doing everything they can do prove people wrong.”
Watch the full interview on iFollow.