Pre-season: Are there enough games to prepare Swindon for League Two?
Discipline, respect and most importantly fitness have been Di Canio’s message to the returning Swindon Town squad early in pre-season. Nobody can doubt the positive change Paolo has brought with him to install upon a previously lethargic and injury plagued side, but for me there remains concerns whether there is enough competitive pre-season action to prepare Town for League Two.
After originally being told this was a “tour of Italy”, the trip – starting on Monday for 10-days – has seen the club erect their tent and the players lay down their beach towels in Norcia for a training camp at the Bianconi Sporting Center. So now not so much a tour, but an all-included package holiday at a resort.
The games organised against two games against local sides in Norcia – scheduled for Saturday July 9 (5.30pm KO) and Wednesday July 13 (5.30pm KO) – will give an embryonic Town side a first chance to familiarise with one another and to prove their fitness, but perhaps are unlikely to really test the players.
With the first game at the Salicone Stadium against very low level amateur players from Norcia, the second is against a yet to be announced local side of ‘around conference level ability’. Not exactly a tough start.
After the runaround in the Italian heat, Town return to Blighty on the 14th July to only 3 pre-season games including a trip to Supermarine (Tuesday 19th) and Cirencester (Monday 25th), then a local derby with Reading at the County Ground on the 30th July, a week before we first kick a League Two ball in anger against Crewe.
So with a real test only available when we face Reading, it seems a relatively kind pre-season, leaving me anxious with the 5 games being one or two short of a real pre-season preparation and test.
We must not forget Di Canio is a rookie manager, himself on a learning curve as much as his players, needing matches to prepare, test and refine his tactics in game situations.
Town have a new look squad already, no doubt they’re working hard to bond, yet Di Canio still expects to make more signings, that’s even more new blood needing time and ultimately pre-season games top prepare.
I’ve no qualms that fitness wise Di Canio and Claudio Donatelli will have their troops ready for Crewe. However just 450 minutes of friendly football against hardly testing opponents isn’t enough in my book, as Town cannot afford to learn on the job and make a poor start in League Two.