Nicky Cowley compares two pre-seasons, three years apart

Courtesy of Graham Burrell

It’s been three years since Danny and Nicky Cowley first came into our club. Three years.

It’s fair to say the resurgence and improvement had started already, at least in terms of reconnecting with the community and boardroom stability. Clive Nates came on board in December 2015 and Chris Moyses worked for free to alleviate our financial woes.

Fans were back on board, to a degree, but we needed a catalyst. We had a squad that was partly talented, partly weighed down by deadwood and that was the first thing the new management team had to address.

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Speaking to local press, Nicky compared that pre-season to this, three year apart and yet a world away from each other.

“When we first arrived it was slightly different,” Nicky told the Lincolnshire Echo.

“In the National League, we inherited a group of players that were already contracted at the club. As a consequence, we were getting to know a new group.

“I remember we arranged for them to come in slightly earlier than our scheduled first day back from pre-season because we wanted to see where they were at physically.

“Prior to that we just didn’t know what they were like fitness wise, having that type of information ready was vital for us to be able to pitch the training at the suitable level for which their fitness was at.”

Having got them in early, it turned out alright, didn’t it? We made a few big signings, not least Alex Woodyard, Nathan Arnold and of course; Matt Rhead. The big man was already at the club but convincing him to stay was a major coup.

After that our management team worked with the players and began to reshape history. It’s now 2019, we’re in League One and will go toe to toe with Sunderland, Ipswich and Bolton as equals. That won’t change the pre-season approach, as Nicky elaborated on.

“When pre-season starts ,you don’t want to be really enthusiastic and energetic, and do too much with the players which could injure them. It’s very much a process – in the first week it’s very safe in terms of fitness testing and ensuring that the players are all looked after.

“It’s important that they’re all in a good condition to fulfil the programme that we’ve prepared for them.”

That programme is often individually tailored to suit the needs of each player. Speaking to the Stacey West last summer, Neal Eardley revealed what their pre-season plan entails.

“The club is very professional on all levels and we were sent out individual programmes to be getting on with in the off season, Luke Jelly and people like that see to it we’re informed and prepared to stay sharp.”

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Once they’re back training, build up is likely to be measured and steady, but building to a crescendo. It’s no surprise we have a tight fixture schedule as the season begins, with a host of high-profile matches to get the players match fit at just the right time.

There won’t be any room for error this season against a whole new level of opposition, but with Slaven Bilic taking over at West Brom, Jonathon Woodgate going into Middlesbrough and developments expected at Hull City; we can be sure that when the season does start we’ll have our favourite brothers in the dugout directing proceedings once more.