A lot has happened since our last pre-season friendly with Charlton. Two managers have been disposed of at The Valley, new owners have rescued the club from certain administration, a relegation battle was successfully fended off with Championship status maintained and a new manager and a host of new players make it an almost unrecognisable squad from our game here 12 months ago.
Bob Peeters is the man at the helm and we thank him and the board at Charlton for bringing a team to Stonebridge Road this evening.
Our two games so far have been great exercises so early on in pre-season and both games were against teams that were into their third and fourth games respectively.
The Dulwich game was as we expected: our opponents started at a very high tempo and we found ourselves adjusting from training pace into match pace. The objective was simply to get minutes under our belts without sustaining any injuries and it was good to see everybody that started pushed past the 65-minute margin.
Although scorelines aren’t important at this stage, nobody likes to lose and winning is a good habit. Positives can be taken in victory and defeat and I saw some very encouraging performances. It’s always good to get strikers hitting the back of the net and clean sheets are very pleasing to me as the manager. Our new players are all settling in well and they’ve all shown great attitude. Already I can see the unity and team spirit is very high within the group.
The Dagenham game was a very pleasing performance and for those who attended, I think you will agree that we thoroughly deserved our four-goal win and could have had more with the clear-cut chances we created. Our fitness levels looked very good and I thought our shape and discipline was first class. We try to put everything in perspective and although we were terrific on Saturday, no points are won during pre-season. All we want to do is build on our performances and work together to make improvements as a team and as individuals.
Michael West is making positive strides in his rehabilitation and the specialist is very pleased with his progress. As I’ve said, we will not rush Westy as we want him to be fitter and stronger than ever on his return to first-team action. Dean Rance has a slight knee issue which has been treated by a specialist and he will return to training within the next couple of weeks.
I would like to congratulate Leo Mazzone who recently signed a full-time contract after signing as a scholar last season. Leo has impressed me throughout his time training with us and if he continues to improve and learn as quickly as he has so far he will be knocking on the door of the first team before too long. It must be great for the other scholars to see – and Jack Barnes, Luke Moore, Ollie Boulding, Joe Denny and Rhys Hughes have all been included in first-team training already this pre-season. With the likes of Casey Johnson, Jeff Nguede and Karn Miller-Neave looking impressive as well we certainly won’t be lacking numbers this year.