Exeter City manager Matt Taylor says his side can only concentrate on themselves as they prepare for the first match of the Sky Bet League Two season at home to Macclesfield Town.
After a productive pre-season schedule which has seen City lose just one of their nine matches, they have recruited heavily in readying the squad for the new season.
Up against a Macclesfield side who will be looking to further stabilise themselves in League Two this coming season, Matt believes the Grecians can only focus on themselves going into the test at St James Park.
The City boss explained: “We can only concentrate on ourselves. As much as you try and read into previous team’s shapes and formations from managers and opposition you can only control what’s in front of you and that’s our team.
“The five or six weeks that we’ve done with these players should hopefully mean that they’re ready for this weekend. You can never predict what’s going to happen in a game of football, but like I’ve said to the group time and time again, we’ve got to take care of ourselves and we know that if we play on the front foot and play a certain style that suits our personnel then that gives us half a chance.”
The Grecians have had a busy pre-season which began with a trip to Jersey before playing a number of matches across the south west as they continued their preparations.
“We’ve played the best part of eight or nine intense games and done a lot of hard work which started the best part of six weeks ago,” explained Matt. “I think we’re ready for a proper game of football and a league game and it’s one we’ve got to look forward to.
“We feel the lads are fit and in good shape but it’s about producing a performance.”
Ahead of the season opener the Grecians played Torquay United behind closed doors earlier in the week to build up minutes for the campaign. Despite coming up against a young Torquay side, the City manager was pleased that players were able to get some game time.
“They came through it fine,” said Matt. “Craig Woodman got an important 70 minutes and the rest of the group got some more good minutes under their belts. We thought they (Torquay) would send a stronger team than they did but it actually ended up being a young Torquay outfit. We were comfortable winners, but the game was a worthwhile game in terms of match minutes for certain players.”
On the injury front the Grecians were pleased to welcome Lee Holmes back into training but the City winger has missed a large chunk of pre-season through injury. The 32-year-old’s only appearance in pre-season came right at the start as his free-kick helped City to a win in Jersey.
Matt continued: “Lee Holmes hasn’t had any match minutes since the first game of pre-season (v Jersey) so this game is probably a little bit too soon for him. He’s got through three or four days training so he’s a lot closer than he was this time last week. Gary Warren has got through a couple of days training, and Nigel Atangana is still a few weeks away but he’s out there on a daily basis with the group of players.
“It’s a case of getting as many fit ones as we possibly can available, but it’s about what level of fitness they’re at. We feel they are a fit group; they’ve got to play like that. You go into the first game of the season you’ve got to be able to rely on certain aspects of your own game, and your legs and lungs are certainly one of those.”
Reflecting on the pre-season Matt feels his side are in a good place after some hard work and with new bodies in the changing room, as well as the coaching staff, everyone is excited to take on the new season.
He explained: “It’s a long six weeks in terms of pre-season and it felt like a longer off-season off the back of no play-offs. It’s what you do, what you get paid to do, players, staff and managers. It’s 5pm on a Saturday when people judge you but, hopefully, they’ll judge a performance based on a good heart and connection with the team and a good team spirit in the group. The new signings especially have bedded in well which you’re always pleased about as a manager. It’s all about performances now, it’s the first game of the season but we’ve got another 45 after that. There will be ups and downs throughout, but we’ve all got to stick together.
“I’m always learning, I don’t think you ever stop learning as a player or as a manager. We’ve not done too much this season compared to last season, there’s some new faces in terms of personnel and certain areas that we had to strengthen after some departures. In terms of the recruitment side of it we’re relatively pleased, in terms of the coaching and management of the players it’s not too dissimilar from last season. We don’t want to change too much; the group has been pretty solid for a number of seasons now and we just want to keep on building.”
With City’s opener coming at St James Park, the City boss is hoping to see a packed St James Park on the opening day and says that continued support from the fans will go a long way to helping the side on the pitch.
“I’m sure they’re the same as us, we’re itching to get going, and hopefully they’ll come through the turnstiles with a positive mentality, said Matt. “Hopefully they’re excited about what we’ve done in the off-season and hopefully they were excited about what they saw to a certain extent last season. If we can build on that and improve on that then we won’t be a million miles away. It’s always a tricky test at the start of the season but we’ve all got to stick together and their noise and the atmosphere that they create will be hugely beneficial to the group of players as well and hopefully we can respond off each other.”
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