Preseason Preparations Underway For Concord
Guest blogger Alan Jessup-Peacock looks at Concord Rangers’ preseason to date.
Pre-season can be a complicated time for football fans. Now, you may wonder why I say that when it should probably be the simplest of times for the sport, well I shall explain! For Concord Rangers West Ham United, and every other club at every level, pre-season is a mixture of things which mean that fans emotions can be put through the wringer even more than during the season! A big part of preseason is to ensure that the players you have are fit and match ready after a summer off work. The clubs want to see that their players have not overdone it on holiday or had 5 too many burgers, and make sure that they will be competitive during the coming season. Fans agree with this, and want to see the best players get the run out during the games, hopefully leading to morale-boosting victories before the regular season kicks off.
In contrast, there is also the need to trial new players, players from the youth academy or players that may not have been with a club the previous season. Bringing these players in will normally mean that the club will not be at full strength for these pre-season games, and can often lead to results (losses) that leave the team and the fans feeling disheartened. Now the majority of football fans know that essentially pre-season results do not matter in the grand scheme of things, however it’s never easy to see your team lose. Take for example West Ham, even though they fielded young, “weak” teams against Oxford and Grays, the losses there were not nice to see!
A club wants to take on teams that will challenge their own, that will provide their players with experience of different leagues and levels of talent. Concord have done that with games against Great Wakering, Dagenham & Redbridge and Southend United. The neighbours down the road, well we can’t say the same for them, as they host “Mark Wrights Team Essex” (for those that don’t know, Mark Wright is a “star” of the “tv show” The Only Way Is Essex). I guess different clubs take preseason games with differing levels of seriousness!
Previously I haven’t seen many pre-season games, maybe going to see West Ham once or twice over the years. However this year, as my involvement with Concord Rangers continues to grow I wanted to get a good early look at how we were progressing and how the team was shaping up for the coming season. The first pre-season game for Concord was an away trip to St Neots, who currently play in the Southern League Premier Division. Concord walked away 3-2 winners on the night, and followed that by having a young squad pick up a 1-1 draw against Bowers & Pitsea FC last Thursday night.
The first team, including some trialists, took part in their first home pre-season game last Friday against Great Wakering Rovers, who themselves are managed by Dan Trenkel, a former Concord Rangers player. Great Wakering were relegated last season (albeit harshly) to the Essex Senior League, but given how they played on the night I can see them coming back up fairly quickly. They were a solid side, well marshalled by Trenks and the coaches on the sideline, but didn’t quite have the quality to break through Concord. Now the Beachboys weren’t perfect, and gaffer Dan Cowley was quick to point out he was disappointed with aspects of the performance, however the team looked fairly fluid and I enjoyed being there (except the fact that I was torn apart by a swarm of gnats). Trialist Jacob Cleaver came on at half time and shortly afterwards managed to break the deadlock, and his well taken goal ended up being the deciding factor as the game ended 1-0.
The team were back at the Aspect Arena last Wednesday the 25th as they hosted League 2 side Dagenham & Redbridge. A side looking much more like the standard starting 11 took the field, putting in a determined and professional performance for most of the game. The first half hour was very even, with Concord really giving the Daggers a run for their money. However a defensive slip on the half hour mark allowed Dagenham to take the lead, and a similar error occurred soon after which gave the Daggers a 2-0 half time lead. The Beachboys came out for the second half fighting once again, and although they fell to an early 2nd half goal, it was a fairly fluid performance from the squad.
There’s still plenty of pre-season games to play, including the previously mentioned home match against Southend, but already there are positives to take towards the start of the season on August 18th. The side look like they are playing very good football, new signing Chris Bourne looked very dangerous on Wednesday night, and Tony Stokes seems to be relishing his recent role in the centre of the field as team captain. I mean, I’ve seen him play twice in pre-season and for each 90 minutes he’s barely stopped. Michael Jordan (not the basketball player!) looks fairly solid in goal, and youngsters like Sammy Knott and Tyler Hubbard are showing signs of being first team regulars very soon. All in all, with what I’ve seen so far this pre-season, I am optimistic with regards to how the team will do this year!