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Seven things Sam Morshead learnt about Town from pre-season tour
1) COMMITMENT TO THE CAUSE
In the recent past, without naming guilty parties, there hasn’t been the kind of work ethic amongst the Swindon squad that now exists.
Be that because of the Paolo Di Canio regime, the higher standards of the players or a combination of the two - the Robins look fitter, sharper and infinitely more united.
Sure, there are groups of friends off the field, but on it they are a team.
2) PAOLO’S SPOILT FOR CHOICE
There is massive depth within the current squad and, with Di Canio planning to add further to it, competition for places will be fierce.
The old cliche suggests that that should be healthy, but the manager is going to have to balance his players’ desire to play.
What happens in the middle of midfielde with Alan Navarro, Tommy Miller and Simon Ferry or up top with Andy Williams, Paul Benson and James Collins? They can’t all play all the time and Di Canio’s man management skills will be tested.
3) STILL PLENTY TO DO ON MATCHDAY
While the 9-1 thrashing of a select XI at the team’s Hotel Veronello base was little more than a fitness exercise for the Town players, the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich II gave a better indication of what still needs to be done to get the Robins playing the kind of liquid football Di Canio craves.
In the first half, there were six new signings on show and there were scratchy phases where Bayern controlled midfield for long periods. With 11 men all with six months’ experience of each other under their belts, the second period flowed much better from a Swindon point of view.
4) ROONEY READY FOR HIS CHANCE
Luke Rooney made a major impact out on the banks of Lake Garda, making a good impression during his two 45-minute appearances in the friendlies and in the ballwork drills that I witnessed in training.
He may have to compete against Gary Roberts for a spot on the left of midfield but, after six months spent in and out of the team, now he could well make the position his own.
5) WHO NEEDS A BACK-UP KEEPER
One man we didn’t get to see enough of during the tour was Leigh Bedwell.
The second-string keeper was only given a brief run-out during the 9-1 victory over a select XI and didn’t feature at Andalo against Bayern Munich II.
There haven’t been enough players progress the whole way through the youth system at Town, for various reasons, and since Craig Farr and Steve Mildenhall that has been particularly true amongst goalkeepers.
Wes Foderingham has openly stated that he feels the club will bring in a new man between the posts to challenge him imminently, but is there a need?
If Foderingham is injured or suspended, why not dip into the loan market for an emergency signing. Otherwise, give Bedwell his chance. If not, why offer him a contract in the first place?
6) THESE PLAYERS EARN THEIR WAGES
When you listen to the footballing grapevine, you often hear stories from the past that refer to three-day weeks for footballers, with 90-minute training sessions and little to no fitness-specific work.
Those within the sport talented and lucky enough to get towards the top of the game frequently set examples you wouldn’t want your own children following. Town’s players are doing plenty to justify the amount spent on them.
They work very hard during the day, and maintain a positive image away from the training field.
7) THE DI CANIO FACTOR
I’ve never previously had the chance to see a manager in action of the training ground, and I doubt many are like Di Canio globally.
He will get so intimately involved in a session, arms flailing, head bent up towards the sky - he is living vicariously through his players.
Generally they seem to be absorbing his every word, but that may be because he demands their attention. He addresses everything in minute detail.