Taylor: We want to give our fans a team to believe in

Matt Taylor takes the first training session of the 2024/25 schedule

On the first day of pre-season, Bristol Rovers manager Matt Taylor sits down with Club TV to discuss the seven new signings made so far, additions to his backroom team, the plans for the coming weeks and the work ahead of the 2024/25 Sky Bet League One campaign…


Matt, how has the first day back for pre-season been?

"It’s been an enjoyable day. A busy day, as day ones always are. Everyone returns and everyone has a lot of conversations because we've been away for quite a period of time. I've never experienced eight weeks off in an off-season, so hopefully the players have come back re-energised, refreshed and ready to get to work.

"In term of what the first day look like from start to finish, we have an initial meeting where we set out our standards and expectations from the group. Then  they go over to the gym for a batch of testing, which is all medical and strength and conditioning led. They do that all morning, and it does take all morning, and we get a whole host of data from them.

"Then they came back in and had a bit of lunch, and they've been out on pitches this afternoon, and the pitch work has been football-related. Gone are the days of players coming back to training in terrible shape. They all seem to be in good shape, so we're able to do football work straight away. We know they've been following the off-season programmes as well, so it was important to get the balls out and get moving, trying to get that feeling back in the game, and a little bit of competitive stuff as well.

"That's how the first day has generally looked. They will be a little bit sore on Tuesday. I'm sure there'll be a few blisters starting to appear, but then Tuesday is when the physical running really starts."

It was the end of April the last time you were out on the pitch with the team. How did it feel to get back out there on Monday afternoon?

"It was great. It was still raining in the morning, and then obviously the sun came out. Some first days of pre season, or first weeks of pre season, can be red hot, and that might come further down the line, but we’ve had all aspects of the weather for our first day back in.

"You do miss each other, and certainly when you're working in football you do miss what the life in football brings you. That is a schedule and a routine and your days generally look the same. Obviously, there's lots of different things that go into them, but in terms of start times and what you do within that time period. So it throws you out a kilt a little bit when you're off as a player and not based at the training ground.

"It probably takes a little bit of time to get back used to it. But in the next few days I'm sure the players will be back in their routines and then can see how their bodies feel off the back of it.


There were seven new signings announced last week and that gave the squad a real fresh feel coming into work on Monday…

"It was important to get those seven signings announced last week. We announced one every day and it was great in the sense that we led into this week with a bit of momentum, in terms of the feel of the football club and what we’re trying to do in terms of recruitment.

"They are good players and a certain profile of players. They are within a certain age bracket where there is potential and bandwidth for improvement. But they are certainly a hungry group, and they've shown that.

first team in the gym

"When we’ve done the presentation and the communication aspects, we’ve felt they’re good players and understand what it means to play for Bristol Rovers and where we want to take the club as well. As with all new players, and young players, they will need a little bit of time. They integrated really well on the first day.

"It’s important to also talk about the half-dozen young players who we have in the building as well. Some were here last season in some capacity in Kofi Shaw and Jerry Lawrence, but we’ve added to that with Max Edwards, Ollie Dewsbury and Charlie White all in too. They’re players who have been associated with Bristol Rovers for a long time. It’s great to have them on board and amongst training and the group. They feel like new players as well. It’s a really exciting time.

"And now the key for any recruitment drive is we continue to build on the good work that's happened so far. George Friend and Chris Spendlove have been absolutely exceptional in terms of what they've done thus far. But the real mark of it is  what we do from this point on.

"We still need a bit of experience. We still need a little bit of physicality and a little bit of league know-how.  We're looking to see how that develops in the next few weeks."


Scott Sinclair has signed a new deal with the Club. You must be delighted Scott is staying with Rovers for the coming season?

"There is an experience side to Scott, of course, but what he did on the pitch in terms of playing efforts in the back half of last season was outstanding. He was one of our more consistent performers. He stayed fit and he produced. There was nothing nostalgic about Scott’s contract, it was a performance-based one, but then he does bring a connection to the football club, and hopefully can bring a connection to those younger players too. 

Scott Sinclair signs new Bristol Rovers contract

"There's no better example in football, not just at our football club. When we do the running in pre-season, I guarantee he will win it. There's some of the new signings who think they'll go close but I guarantee he will be close to winning it. He’s probably been like that throughout his career. He's in great shape. He's a humble person. We like what he stands for. So it was an important moment to get that done, and now I want him to continue his role in a playing capacity, first and foremost, and producing those performances, but also to continue to grow in a leadership aspect."


And there have been some changes to the backroom team as well this summer…

"Wayne Carlisle, who was with us in a part-time capacity in the second half of last season, he’s moved into the Assistant Manager role.

"Dave Horseman has come in as a First-team Coach. I’ve never worked with Dave personally but we’ve been in contact a few times and I’ve heard a lot of good things about his work. He interviewed very well when we advertised for the position, and he has an understanding of Bristol, as a city. He has tasted management as well, which is great for me to be able to offload some problems every now and then, because he's been there and done it.

"He will add a bit of freshness to our coaching group as well, coaching is what he's renowned for. We're looking forward to him getting into work with his group of players and some of those young players I've mentioned as well.

Matt Taylor and his 2024/25 backroom team appointments

"Scott Brown has come in as Head Of Goalkeeping. He's just come out of work from a Championship club, and his pedigree is second to none, and we're excited for what he does with all our goalkeepers. Rotherham have just sold a goalkeeper for a significant amount of money to Stoke City, and within that time frame that player got his international recognition as well, and I'm sure Scott has played a part in that. 

"In terms of medical, Andrew Proctor has come in and will lead that department. He is another person who has affiliations with the city. He has worked in football a long time, and hopefully will bring improvements to our medical provision. And then finally, Liam McCartan has joined us as Lead Analyst."


How does the rest of pre-season look for the squad?

"Time will go quickly, even more so in pre-season. We spoke at the end of the season in April and that doesn’t feel too long ago, so these six weeks will fly by.

"We’ve got a game straight away this week and hopefully our fans will come in good numbers. It’s a local game away at Melksham Town, a club we’ve got a great connection with. We’re looking forward to that one on Friday. From our stand-point, that will be a hybrid team to start the game and then probably a young team in the second half. It will be great for our fans to come along, see some of the new signings up close and then I’m sure there will be a chance to interact with them afterwards.

rovers train

"The schedule really kicks on in the following week. We’ve got some good local opposition. We’ve tried to keep it as close to us as we possibly can, for our fans as much as anything, and we’re going to be playing some professional outfits who can really test us. We’ve tried to get the balance right in terms of the teams we’re playing.

"We also go out to Portugal in week four of pre-season and we’ll play two teams out there, and it will be two fantastic games with some warm-weather training.

"Then we have a couple of home games to finish pre-season in Plymouth Argyle and Cardiff City, leading into the start of the season Everyone knows about the Carabao Cup draw as well, and we also have the Bristol Street Motors Trophy group matches down the line as well, so we have a lot to look forward to."


Finally, a word used a few times today is ‘culture’. For you, what does the right culture look like going into the new season?

"Culture is a buzzword. Everyone uses it nowadays. It's people. The world is about people, and this football club is no different.

I’d like to think the fans can believe in the people here, first and foremost, and then they’ll see a team out there that will give absolutely everything for the club
Matt Taylor

"The supporters, first and foremost. The message to the players this morning was about who we represent and how those supporters want to be reflected by what they see with the team on the pitch. It’s also in how we act, how we behave, how we conduct ourselves and how we respond to difficulties. Everything that goes into being a top, top professional, and that's the most important part of any football club, the people.

"We feel we have got some good people in the building already. We've recruited good people, and there is some fantastic work being done by the staff, both at the training ground and at the stadium. But then we need that playing aspect to grow the belief.

"It’s all well and good for our supporters to see the signings coming through the door, but we want to give them a team to believe in. I’d like to think they can believe in the people, first and foremost, and then they’ll see a team out there that will give absolutely everything for the club. Time will tell how robust we are when adversity comes at us. One thing I don’t want us to be short on is that will and that desire, and that understanding what it means to play for this football club."

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