By Nathan BeesIt’s here, ladies and gents. The new football season is upon us and we have 9 months of Conference football to enjoy… no, tolerate… no, reluctantly get our teeth stuck into.
It’s not where we want to be but now we’re here we have no choice but to tackle the task head on.
As I mentioned last week, I have slowly found myself looking forward to the coming campaign and that’s largely because of the enthusiasm and confidence of manager Darrell Clarke.
I met him twice over the summer and on both occasions I was thoroughly impressed by his passion and no-nonsense attitude.
He knows what he wants from his players and won’t accept anything other than 100% commitment to the Rovers cause - something he states some of last season’s squad lacked.
I certainly wouldn’t argue with that and I find it refreshing that our manager is prepared to be so honest. Anyone who saw the utterly lifeless and frankly disgraceful performances away at Hartlepool
United and at home to Torquay United would struggle to put up any sort of opposition. In fact, I’d say it was impossible.
Still, that’s gone now and we have to look ahead. The main thing that struck me about Clarke is how infectious his positivity is.
Before meeting him for the first time I was totally disillusioned and feared the worst for us this year, but after an open and honest 20 minute chat I felt much more hopeful
He exudes confidence because he is so sure in his own mind that he can achieve success, and that is something I didn’t see or feel in our previous managers.
He talked me through how he wants the team to play and the type of player he was hoping to bring in, personally assuring me that every single new recruit would be the fittest they had ever been in their careers.
It all sounded very encouraging and before I knew it I was looking forward to the new season.
I defy anyone who has had a good football chat with Clarke to tell me that they didn’t feel more optimistic afterwards than they did before meeting him. Yes, he’s that cheerful.
Of course, the proof will be in the pudding and we will get our first taste of what’s on offer tomorrow lunchtime in our opener against Grimsby Town.
I didn’t go to the Coventry City friendly last Friday but from what I read online we performed well. The recurring comment was that the lads looked to play good passing football when they could and put the Sky Blues under considerable pressure.
Having not seen us play like in this way as yet I must admit it’s one of the things I am most looking forward to about tomorrow - that and welcoming back former favourite Craig Disley, who now captains the Mariners.
Diz was a player who had it all: intelligence, awareness and the uncanny knack of popping up at the right time in the penalty box to score a goal. He worked tirelessly every time he pulled on the shirt and endeared himself to Gasheads courtesy of his determination and energetic displays in the middle of the park.
Richard Walker, Rickie Lambert and Sammy Igoe may have been the obvious heroes from our promotion in 2007, but Diz was as integral to our success as anybody else.
For that reason he will always be very fondly remembered at the Mem and I hope he gets the reception he deserves when he walks out on to the pitch.
He may not admit it publicly but I guarantee he is desperate to hear his affectionate song sung loudly by those stood in the Blackthorn End at some point! I have no doubt we will do him proud.
The midfielder and his Grimsby team-mates will head to the south west full of confidence and they are tipped by many to claim the title at the end of the campaign.
That will come as a compliment as far as manager Paul Hurst is concerned but it will increase the pressure they feel heading into the new campaign.
The last thing any player needs is to feel the weight of the world on their shoulders as they are about to embark on a 46 game marathon. With the game being televised live on BT Sport, they will be looking to cause an opening day shock by winning away at a fellow well-fancied side, setting their promotion stall out early doors.
They will be without five key players for the game, however. New signings Jon-Paul Pittman and Nathan Arnold are ruled out with injuries while Shaun Pearson, Toto Nsiala and Scot Neilson are also missing.
We, on the other hand, have no injury concerns according to Clarke and that is something we need to try and take advantage of. I’m sure the lads would have been confident in the first place but this should
come as an additional boost.
It will be interesting to see what Clarke considers to be his strongest XI after the speculation on the forums as to who should/should not start.
We don’t have long to wait until kick-off and I for one can’t wait. I’m usually in a good mood on a Friday anyway but with the new season just around the corner I am even chirpier than normal.
You wait the whole summer for this point and whilst we aren’t in the league we want to be in, we have no choice but to embrace it. There will be highs and lows, excitement and drama, but one thing’s for sure: Darrell Clarke and the boys will be bang up for it.
See you tomorrow, Gasheads!