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Friday, July 23, 2010

Pre Season Friendlies

Love them or loathe them, it's that time of the year again. Clubs are getting stuck into their pre-season friendly campaigns, giving Turls and Nobes the perfect opportunity to discuss such warm-up games.

Away matches at quaint grounds - the very essence of pre season friendlies

Turls: I've been to a few pre-season friendlies, but none of them stick in my mind.

I remember seeing a vastly overweight Nigel Spink in one game but, other than that, they tend to be forgettable encounters between a Non League team and a 'big' club's youth team.

Nobes: I have to say, I have only ever been to one pre-season friendly. It was a 1-1 draw with Ipswich in 2006 - and we ended the season being relegated. So I swore myself I'd never make that mistake again!

I don't think I'd ever want to go again though. It's a very strange atmosphere with all the fans mixed together in the same stand. I just couldn't get myself excited about what I was watching, too.

I don't mind going to them because it's normally a good chance to see the next generation of talent and also allows you to look at your club's new signings.

The one benefit I'd say about them is it's nice to be able to watch a game and not worry too much about the score. You are able to relax and watch a game - possibly even in the nice weather.

I can wait until the first game of the season to see new players though. I'm not in that much of a rush.

Turls: Oh, I can understand why few people do attend. They are glorified knockabouts that are just aimed at bringing in a little bit of money in.

Nobes: Oh yes, for financial reasons, they're definitely worth clubs staging. Particularly if you clubs can coax a few people to come and watch the reserve team of a bigger club.

Turls: I reckon most managers just use it as a a way of bringing new players up to speed with their style of football and it also allows players to increase their much-coveted 'match fitness.'

They are a good opportunity for a manager to test out a new formation, but I'd rather see new players getting the chance to play alongside their team mates in a match situation.

Nobes: I think it's always nice to be able to try out new formations, but I'd prefer it if the manager actually used the games to find the right balance and partnerships across the team.

If he's brought in a lot of new players then they are going to need time to form an understanding. Particularly down the spine of the team. You want your centre halves and keeper to understand one another and communicate well.

You also need your two forwards to be on the same wavelength, so one knows where the ball is likely to be headed, where to make the runs to get onto the end of flicks on. All that kind of stuff. Pre-season is perfect for honing that.

Turls: Yep, there's only so much you can do the training ground. Obviously, if you've sold a few key players and brought in some different faces than the formation might need to be changed, so it does provide a good opportunity to see how your team plays in each system.

Nobes: That's if your team actually even plays at home. These days even the smaller teams go on tours abroad and only play friendlies on home soil away to Non League sides.

Training in sunnier climes abroad - a typical sight during pre-season

Turls: Both have their good points though. Going on a summer tour is a perfect chance for players to bond and develop an understanding off the pitch - which should help on the pitch.

Problems occur when you've got a troublemaker or two in your ranks. When Dennis Wise decided to cause problems for the Leicester staff it got their season off the worst possible start - and they hadn't even begun their matches.

I much prefer clubs to play local teams because it allows the fans to get to see the new signings, formation, or even manager if they want to. It also promotes a better feeling in the community.

Nobes: I do like it when a big club sometimes purchases a player from a smaller club that they arrange a pre-season friendly between the two teams as part of the deal.

I remember that happening after Liverpool signed Jack Hobbs from Lincoln and they brought a team, albeit a weakened one, to Sincil Bank. It was a nice occasion for the club and the player who made it happened.

Indeed, in football, the little man is being ushered away from the party and, if the big teams continue to ignore the plight of these teams, then the likes of Dunkirk FC would well find themselves sipping a cola in the shed while everyone else gets rummed up.

I think pre-season is a vital ingredient of football though. A good pre-season can give the team a vital boost, but a boost nevertheless. Winning breeds a winning mentality.

Brian Clough said that his most important victory was when his Forest side won the Coronation Cup in 1977.

Why? Because it gave the team their first taste of success. And when you taste success you want more and more. It's addictive. Like crack. Or Irn Bru.

Nobes: I think you'd certainly prefer a good pre-season results wise than a bad one. It does boost confidence and that can be such a crucial ingredient in the game.

You don't want to go into the new campaign off the back of a run of defeats and, if you're a new signing, wondering whether you've made a mistake signing for your new club and whether you're in for a long season of struggle.

Turls: A bad pre-season isn't the end of the world though. The key is to get the players playing well together. If you don't get the best results, it doesn't matter too much - as long as you're having periods where your key players are 'clicking'.

Nobes: Could you also argue that a bad pre-season maybe, and welcomingly, dampens expectations though?

Turls: Expectations? Nonsense. I am yet to meet a fan who has thought that because of a successful pre-season that they now fancy their team to have a good year.

It's a warm-up and anyone who has half a footballing brain knows that. If you don't know that, then maybe you should look into accounting.

True, and I'm sure that teams have been relegated off the back of a good pre-season and promoted despite a bad one. You can always rely on football fans to read too much into them though!

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