11/09/2020

Darrell Clarke on Squad Strength, Fitness Levels & Locking Horns With Ian Holloway

Darrell Clarke has spoken to the press as the League Two season is about to get underway.
Walsall manager Darrell Clarke has spoken to members of the local press ahead of this weekend's season-opening Sky Bet League Two clash with Grimsby Town.

After playing two cup games in four days last week - a Carabao Cup defeat to Sheffield Wednesday and an EFL Trophy bonus point win over Bristol Rovers - the manager believes his team will be fighting fit for tomorrow's clash with Ian Holloway's Mariners.

Clarke, who was able to retain the majority of his squad from last season's mid-table securing side, has added five new players over the summer and insists there is plenty of competition for places in his squad going into the new campaign.

With several of the club's academy products now playing active roles in the first-team the Mansfield-born boss feels his team is heading into the season in good stead, although it's far too early to know just what will happen over the curse of the campaign.

Speaking to various members of the local media, Darrell said; "We have got good competition for places and we’ve got to crash that into a nine-month season. We’ve got good young lads which helps.

"When you’ve got the likes of Alfie Bates, Joe Willis, Sam Perry and Tom Leak, good younger pros who are potentially ready for first team football as well.

"We haven’t got the biggest squad in the world but we managed to bring in a couple of senior boys shall we say, but not over the hill in Emmanuel (Osadebe) and Hayden White but it’s a similar sort of size to last year.

"The players fitness levels are good and the beauty for me is it looks like I have a fully fit squad which was always the aim goal in pre-season, which is good news. One or two are lacking match minutes so you have to do a bit of juggling as a manager.

"You’ve got to follow the medical team and the Strength & Conditioning coach and I’m sure there will be a few changes along the way as these early games come but I’m really pleased with the lads fitness levels in these first couple of games."

Clarke, who pitted his team against the likes of Crewe Alexandra, Burton Albion and Birmingham City over pre-season, is keen to hit the ground running in the league and is keen to secure as many points as possible as his he hopes to build upon last season's twelfth-placed finish.

The manager also admitted that he is looking forward to locking horns with Mariners boss Ian Holloway, with Clarke expecting the experienced Holloway to have his team battle ready by the time we reach kick-off on Saturday afternoon.

Darrell continued; "I get on really well with Ian, who was very supportive when I was managing Bristol Rovers. He's a top guy.

"He says it how it is as well, he doesn't mix his words, but he's earned that right - he's a top, top manager. He's managed some top, top clubs and I certainly think Grimsby are fortunate to have someone of his calibre managing them.

"I'm sure, like always with Ian Holloway's teams, they'll be ready to go. We expect nothing but a difficult encounter. He'll be looking forward to it.

"They have a good mixture of experience and good youth within the squad. He's brought in players and had to be a little bit patient on the players that he brings in, like most clubs with the finance.

"But I'm sure they're in for a good season. In the perfect world we get off to a good start, but there's a hell of a lot of points to play for and it's always been a marathon, not a sprint. We have to focus and try and get a good start.

"It would be nice to start with a positive tomorrow, but whatever we do, win, lose or draw, we build on it.

"Make sure performances are improving through the course of the season because if any team is going to be successful it's not just about winning your first game. It's about winning as many games over the 46 games."

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