There appears to be a lot of optimism and enjoyment exuding from the Rovers camp as pre-season training reaches day 4. Mark McGhee is renowned in the football world for devising meticulous fitness programmes for his players that often leave them mentally scarred! This year though, his first summer with the club, he's introduced the footballs from the beginning and has stated he doesn't believe in getting the team to overload their bodies with too much running.
"We aren't preparing for the Olympics, we are preparing for a football season. My pre-season is based around games. It's an extension of the season rather than a block of time spent running."
Fitness is clearly the priority at this time of year but the players have reported back in good condition which is definitely to their benefit. They won't need to shed any summer weight and so they can utilise the early friendly matches, which begin this coming Saturday against the Royal Marines, to ensure their match sharpness returns sooner rather than later.
Full-back Jim Paterson, who signed a new deal in the close season, has expressed his contentment with how training has been so far and he's clearly already focussing on next year. He stated we must aim for 'promotion' and give it our best shot, as optimism will be high following the terrific home form we showed in the final months of the last campaign. That sort of sentiment is echoed by captain Matt Gill, who knows the hope among supporters will be an assault on the top 3.
The squad is clearly nowhere near completion and McGhee has reiterated how hard he and the chairman are working to finalise deals for new recruits. He hopes to complete the signing of Stoke City midfielder Matt Lund on loan this week, whilst he has also been in further contact with Leicester City over defensive duo Cian Bolger and Tom Parkes. On top of those 3 players a winger is required (potentially 2 should Muzzy leave as expected) and at least one striker. When interviewed yesterday and questioned regarding Oxford United's James Constable, McGhee said we retain an interest should he become available and we haven't completed any other deals for forwards. It remains to be seen who else he is targeting and negotiating with as he is keeping his cards close to his chest - just as he should do.
It's reassuring to know the players are relishing the prospect of being back on the training ground again and have returned in good shape. The player strengthening will continue, but hopefully real quality additions can be added in the very near future to help allow the players to settle within the squad in plenty of time before the season begins.