Exeter opener too early for some signings
CHRIS LAKEY We've still not had the Open while the Indian cricket tour, let alone anything which passes for a summer, has yet to get into full swing. But today Norwich City's season kicks off with a friendly at St James' Park in Exeter.
We've still not had the Open while the Indian cricket tour, let alone anything which passes for a summer, has yet to get into full swing. But today Norwich City's season kicks off with a friendly at St James' Park in Exeter.
And among those for whom it comes a little too early are several of Peter Grant's close-season recruits.
The Canaries fly to Devon with manager Grant refusing to risk any new boys who have yet to reach the required fitness levels. Though Grant is expected to pick from a strong squad of 22 players, goalkeepers David Marshall and Matthew Gilks are unlikely to feature.
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Czech striker David Strihavka is expected to travel, although the drawn-out nature of his move from Banik Ostrava may determine how much time he will be given alongside Jamie Cureton. Grant is also expected to include midfielder Youssef Safri, despite the speculation concerning his future.
However, Grant does expect to have seen all his players in action by the time they leave for Holland in a week's time for the next stage of their preparations.
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“I am conscious of putting guys in who are not up to speed yet,” said Grant. “The likes of (Julien) Brellier - a big part of his game is his fitness levels so we have to make sure his fitness levels are up to the standards we expect.
“The same with Jamie (Cureton), because he never had a plan we put together. John Otsemobor has been working very, very hard and is quite a strong lad, but yet again we have got to make sure all their muscles are up to the speed and can take the intensity that we want to play at.”
Grant revealed that winger Lee Croft had missed one day of training this week to avoid further fitness issues before the season opens at Preston on August 11.
“It was not because of injury, but he has been working so hard I felt that there was a bit of stiffness in his legs,” Grant explained. “I didn't need him to miss a few weeks after working as hard as he has done.
“That's what I will end up doing with some of the boys, I will leave them out. With Dion Dublin it has been hard graft and he has taken part in everything, so I only played him in a 25-minute period, so there are wee things we have to assess all the time.”
Grant will calculate to the minute exactly how long each player gets to ensure fitness levels remain standard.
“I will probably mix and match, because I need to give everybody an amount of time on the pitch,” he said. “It is still pre-season and we are still getting those fitness levels up.
“That is the way it has been throughout training, but in games, somebody gets 45 minutes and then someone doesn't get a game at all, somebody else has played 90 minutes. So it is trying to make sure the same amount of work is going in to them all. Hopefully I can do that on Saturday.
“If I can take all the boys down I will do that and make sure hopefully they all get a part of it. If they don't they will definitely get part of Tuesday and Wednesday next week.”
Marshall and Gilks are likely to sit it out today, giving Paul Gallacher a chance to impress Grant.
Marshall hasn't played since damaging ankle ligaments last February and, although he is fully fit, Grant is keen for him to get in some more goalkeeping skills work.
Strihavka will be assessed before City travel, but Grant is concerned at the after-effects of his move from eastern Europe.
“I will see how David is over the next few days because you tend to forget that for these guys it is a completely new thing for them, a different tempo, the way the game is played and also the fact of the emotional side of it more than anything else,” he said.
“They have all the fitness tests, they have to go through all the medical tests. David will tell you his medical was 24 hours on his feet getting medicals done here and everything so we could get the paperwork done.
“Do I make him part of the squad or do I leave him here to do some fitness work? That's a question I have to ask. The biggest thing for these guys is that they are available for August 11 and that is the most important thing for me.
“If I have to wait to Holland to get them a full game I have no problem with that.”
t Today, July 14: Exeter City (a) 3pm. Adults £10, seniors and students £5, under-18s £2.
t Tuesday, July 17: Lowestoft (a) 7.45pm. Adults £8, pensioners £5, children £3.
t Wednesday, July 18: King's Lynn (a) 7.45pm. Adults £5 and £2.50 concessions, standing only. Limited parking.
t Saturday, July 21: AGOVV Apeldoorn (Sportpark De Strokel, Harderwijk, Holland) 4pm local time. Adults 6 euros, concessions 3 euros.
t Wednesday, July 25: FC Zwolle (Sportpark De Strokel, Harderwijk, Holland) 7pm local time. Adults 6 euros, concessions 3 euros.
t Tuesday, July 31: West Ham (h) 7.45pm. Tickets on general sale. £10 adults, £6 over-60s and students, £3 under-16s, £1 under-12s - in the Family and Standard areas. £12 adults, £7 over-60s and students, £3 under-16s and under-12s - Jarrold Stand and City Stand.
t Friday, August 3: Vitesse Arnhem (h) 7.45pm. Tickets on general sale. £10 City Stand Lounges. £9 Jarrold Stand and City Stand centre seats. £8 adults, £4 over-60s and students, £1 under-16s and under-12s Jarrold Stand and City stand wing seats. £6 adults, £4 over-60s and students, £1 under-16s and under-12s standard seats.
For further ticket details call 0870 444 1902.