Hastings United manager Chris Agutter said the start of the football club’s pre-season preparations has been ‘almost too good’.
Hastings held their first two training sessions on Saturday and Monday as they gear up for the 2018/19 Bostik League South East campaign.
Agutter said: “It’s gone really well. It’s been really positive, almost too good. Players have come back in decent shape. Most of them have stayed at it (over the close season) and maintained their conditioning, which has made our lives a lot easier.
“So it’s more about the organisation of the team rather than getting the team in good condition. The vibe around the dressing room already seems very positive.
“We got them in early for breakfast on Saturday and it was quiet for about five minutes, but after that it was lively.”
In contrast to the old fashioned pre-season diet of running and more running, Hastings have incorporated plenty of ball work into their sessions.
“The perception of pre-season is Hastings running club and it’s definitely not been that,” continued Agutter. “We’re a team that has a lot of the ball - or that’s the aim - so we’ve done an awful lot of work with the ball. The older lads were quite surprised footballs were out so early.
“On day one the players did some fitness testing, then straight into shape work. On day two did shape work with football-specific fitness there. It’s been very much dominated by the ball.
“The players have also got individual gym programmes with lots of physical work to do away from the training and matchday environments, and a lot of that is to do with recovery as well.”
The sessions have given Agutter an up-close look at the new players brought in over the summer and says everyone has been impressed with recent recruit Jahmal Howlett-Mundle.
“It’s reinforced what good business we’ve done,” Agutter went on. “There have only been positives and some more so than others.
“You realise players are good players because that’s the reason you want to bring them in and when you see them up close, you realise you’ve done some really good business over the summer.”
Agutter currently has a 22-man squad, plus four triallists who have trained this week, one of whom has done particularly well according to the manager. Agutter says that 20 is his ideal number come the start of the season next month, with 22 the maximum.
“We do have a lot of competition for places, which is great,” he added. “The squad’s not light in terms of quality and at the moment I couldn’t tell your our best XI because of the strength in depth.”
With a fairly large squad of players all needing plenty of pre-season minutes, Hastings have a number of friendlies lined up over the coming weeks.
They will begin tomorrow (Saturday) against a team being brought down by a football agency in London. That match will replace the scheduled fixture against the club’s own under-23 team and it will get underway from 11am at Bexhill College.
Agutter plans to take 13 players to the game at Westfield on Tuesday (kick-off 7.30pm) and a different 13, plus triallists, to Ashford Athletic on Wednesday (kick-off 7.45pm).
To read Agutter’s thoughts on England’s progress at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, click here.
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