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Steve Watson delighted to be back in training

By Dan Simmonite | 17th July 2020

Steve Watson’s 24-man strong squad has been back training in preparation for the upcoming Vanarama National League North play-offs – with City due to kick off in the semi-final next week. 

It’s been over four months without a competitive fixture, and the manager spoke of his delight at getting back to business. 

He said: “We are all delighted to be back, it was a long lay-off for everybody and we also went through a spell of not knowing whether promotion would be automatic, points-per-game or even if the play-offs would go ahead. 

“It’s been a long time coming but we are back in training now and amongst each other even though for a long period of time we were training in smaller groups as the protocol would dictate. 

“We’ve had a mini pre-season and strangely enough the first game we are looking forward to might end up being the same first game we had at the start of this season.” 

Watson also spoke on how the players were getting on and the competition for places in his starting eleven. 

He added: “Everybody has different bodies; everyone has different ways of getting back into things. Some of the players who started the season really well last year after a lay-off looked really good again and some players who ended the season really strongly will come into the equation. 

“As well as managing everybody’s fitness and not going too hard too early I explained to the lads it’s not necessarily the side that who finished highest at the end of the season it’s about who looks the most ready now, who looks the hungriest and who looks raring to go. 

“In that respect, they’ve all got an equally good chance of getting in that first team which has made training and competition for places really high.” 

Adam Buxton has been retained for the play-offs, along with the likes of Tom Allan, Harry Spratt, Josh King, and Wes York; all of whom were on loan elsewhere when the season ended but now available for selection. 

And Watson has been impressed so far in training. 

Commenting on the squad size he said: “Of course, that will keep the standard really good and the fact that we probably won't get another friendly between now and then, there are very few teams who have big squads in, certainly Premier League and Championship clubs haven’t got their U23s in. 

“The clubs that are back at our level are going into their games now so we will have to get our competitive football out of training. 

“The great thing about what we’ve been able to do this season is the Chairman has allowed us to retain a good-sized squad so if everyone stays fit over the next 8 days, we can have competitive training sessions amongst ourselves.” 

City will play the winner of Altrincham vs Chester this weekend in the play-off eliminator. A game in which the management has a keen eye on. 

Watson added: “We will certainly be watching it. We still have to find out if it’s feasible to get somebody there but the strange situation is, we will be looking at both teams; it might be easier for me and Micky to sit and watch it together and take a team each and do it that way.” 

But whoever awaits City in the semi-final will face a York side with a point to prove after missing out on automatic promotion despite ending the season in top spot. The added addition of five substitutions during the play-offs will also be a tool at Steve Watson’s disposal. 

Speaking on the situation, Watson concluded: “Everyone has got their own agendas as has been proved with the voting system. We certainly won't use it as an excuse but we do feel slightly aggrieved that we were two points ahead at the top of the table with eight games to go on a decent bit of form. 

“But that’s the way they have decided to do it and it’s something that we have to put behind us now – but it does give us that little bit extra point to prove that we placed where we did because we were one of the best teams in the league and we want to see that through desperately. 

“However, every other team will say the same thing. The team we face will deserve to be there and will have got through the preliminary game. 

“It’s a one-off tournament situation and certainly not the way we normally set up to start the game but with substitutions and penalties a possibility there is a lot of thought in which way to do things and it’s exciting.” 

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