Graham Alexander says his players are ‘itching’ to get the new Sky Bet League 2 season underway against Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday.
The Fleetwood Town manager has been left impressed by how his players have risen to the challenges he has said over the course of pre-season and believes they are fully prepared ahead their second season in the Football League.
Speaking to www.fleetwoodtownfc.com, Alexander said: “I am raring to go. It has been a tough pre-season for the lads physically and mentally but I think the way they have gone about their work has been fantastic.
“We are just itching for the kick-off now it’s into the final week. We are trying to keep the lads patient but they’re dying to get on that pitch. We are really looking forward to Saturday.”
Fleetwood will be led out of the tunnel by their new captain on Saturday as well, after Mark Roberts, who joined from League 1 side Stevenage, was named by Alexander as his new skipper for the season.
Alexander believes he has leaders right across the pitch, which includes a number of his other summer signings, but insists Roberts’ know-how and character made him a great candidate to take over the armband and lead Fleetwood into a new era.
“We feel that with the players we have bought in over the summer, that we have probably got four or five captains: Schumacher from Bury, Hogan from Halifax and Cresswell from Southend. We also have Roberts from Stevenage and we had Scott (Davies) from before with us as well. You look throughout the squad and we have a lot of leaders and I think you need that over the course of the season.
“We had to pick one as the main captain and it feels the right thing to do with Roberts. I think he has a great character, the respect of all his team-mates and he has been there, seen it and done it before. We are really looking forward to the start of the season and I feel that he will lead us into a new era.”
Looking back at a successful first pre-season as a manager, Alexander says all the players he already had and has acquired over the summer, have all the attributes to be successful this season and he wants his players to hit the ground running in front of the Cod Army this weekend.
“You need all the tools of the trade. It’s not just about ability, it’s about fitness, organisation, desire and commitment. You need that to be successful. We feel we have that with the players we have brought in to add to the ones we already have. We have got good quality players, we have fit players, we have got players with desire with a good determination to do well.
“We saw this as a major factor in bringing the players in that we have. You have to make sure the gel well together and hit the ground running, we need to focus on the first game for now and we are going to strive to win the game in front of our own fans.”
After finishing 13th in their first season in the Football League, Alexander admits that a lot of work had to be done to improve the team, but after nine summer signings this summer and being able to retain the club’s best players, the Fleetwood manager is happy with the shape his squad is in.
Alexander also says the summer has been about improving the squad he already had – which are all factors in making the most successful football team possible.
“We knew we had to do a lot of work over the summer as a club, and we felt that we did that, it was on-going into pre-season and we are quite happy with what we have at the moment. We always look to improve, just as every team does, but that’s not to say we can’t improve our own players. It’s not just a case of looking outside to improve positions; it’s about improving our own players as well.
“We will give them the time and effort and dedication with that and we will support the players Monday to Friday. We will do specific sessions on their positions and help them get the careers they feel they deserve. The work has to come from the players as well; it’s all a part of building a successful football team and a successful club and getting the players to get the best out of their own careers.”
Looking ahead to Saturday, and Alexander says he has done his homework on Fleetwood’s first opponents of the new season and wants his players to concentrate on their own game.
“Obviously they have had pre-season games, which we have done our homework on, I’m sure they done the same on us but there is a little element of unknown because all the teams will be newish teams. I think every team would have done a bit of a change around I would have expected and Dagenham will be no different to us.
“We will be expecting a tough game but we have an idea about how they might play, but like I stress to our team, we have to pay the upmost respect to every team that we play. We have to concentrate on getting our own performance right and that’s the major factor.
“It’s no good stopping the opponents and not playing our own stuff. We feel we have a way of playing which suits the players that we have bought in and we need to make sure that our focus is on that come Saturday.”
The 41-year-old says his players owe the fans a performance this weekend for the loyal support they showed last season and also during pre-season and believes that the atmosphere in the games against Preston and Coventry was just a ‘taster’ to what is to come tomorrow.
“The two homes games against Preston and Coventry were just little tasters to what the atmosphere is going to be like come the start of the season. A few of the new lads, who haven’t been here before, had a little taste of it and they are looking forward to the start of the season as well. Hopefully they will give the crowd the product they deserve because the supporters have supported the club through thick and thin all over the country.
He added: “We have quite a few journeys as everyone knows but we always have our loyal following and we have to take that responsibility and take these performances seriously. We are really looking forward to getting into the game on Saturday, hopefully getting the three points and getting the ball rolling and getting one big happy family going for this season. It’s one big team and we have to keep it that way.”
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