Manager on injuries and the new season
Manager John Ward has given an update on the injury situation of some of his first team squad, including the situation regarding Matt Gill who sat out Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Reading, and the impact it has had on the young players stepping up.
With the Exeter City match just 4 days away, he concedes that it looks unlikely that midfielder Gill will be fit to feature: “We’d have liked him to have had some time on the pitch on Sunday but it didn’t materialise.
“He’s simply had half an hour on the pitch and it was the first time I’ve seen him in a shirt since I’ve been here. We looked after him yesterday and he’ll be in training today but I don’t see him in a shirt this weekend.”
Ward also spoke of his frustration at losing German winger Fabian Broghammer and was asked whether the injury situation had halted progress this pre-season.
He said: “It’s spoiled things more than ever so slightly. We’ve lost people like Fabian for a long period of time and he’s been a key player. He was getting his first full pre-season and he was going to get better in my view.
“Jim Paterson looked in good shape too and he then picks up a fracture. I can go on about that [the injury situation] as long as you want me to really but it does always open doors up for other people and a lot of young guys have got a chance.
“Some of them got on to the pitch against Reading players that they only see on TV and will be around the group when we go to Exeter and play Watford.
"If all my squad had been fit then we’ve got a very strong group of people, at the moment we’ve got a very youthful back-up group but they’re very keen to get on the pitch and do themselves justice. It’s fine by me and we’ve got to crack on with it and do our very best.”
Ward was thrilled to have new signing John-Joe O’Toole back around his inexperienced squad and knows he isn’t the only one.
He said: “There were 1700 Gasheads [against Reading] who are equally as pleased as me and his team-mates are too. I saw the welcome he got from around the football club and John-Joe looked happy in himself as well and that’s the main thing.
“We don’t pile too much on him but you saw him play on Sunday like he hasn’t been away and he looked as if he was enjoying his football and that’s the key to any player. He’s recognised by players and supporters as a favourite but he’s just got to play his game.
“We’ve got a good character around the place and he does improve the quality of the squad which is what a new signing is all about.”
Looking ahead to Exeter, Ward revealed he’s looking forward to coming up against his opposite number Paul Tisdale and was complimentary about his success with the Devon club.
Discussing the length of time he’s been in the role, Ward said: “He’s the longest serving league manager in the country at the moment. He’s got a real good effect on Exeter City, he’s got them promoted and he’s putting a team together for the future again and I think it’s testimony to him that the football club are sticking with what they believe in.
“Paul’s a good guy to believe in. He was a player with me at Bristol City some years ago and as a person he was an absolutely spot-on guy.
“I like playing his teams, you know what you’re going to get: they play proper football, there’s no diving, there’s no messing around and I’d like to think our boys will do the same.
“Any supporter who has got a ticket for the game should see two teams that want to play well.”
With passing football expected at St James’ Park, Ward has faith in his forward players that they have got goals in them: “They’ve got the capabilities and we’ve got to play in a way that gives them opportunities.
“There’s goals in there and whilst I think we are pretty tight-knit as a team we have got attacking flair in the group and that’s something I really do encourage.
“I wouldn’t put pressure on them and say ‘he’s going to do it’ or ‘that’s going to happen’ because I’m sure they’ll want to be doing that themselves and that’s good enough for me.”