WE’RE now back from training in Portugal and it was absolutely first class for us out there.
We flew out early on Sunday and trained that afternoon before having double sessions on the Monday and Tuesday.
It was hugely beneficial for all us and it was great to see some grass we could train on.
We have about five or six players who simply just cannot train on a 3G surface due to injury, so it did them the world of good in Portugal and from a coaching point of view it was great as well.
I was able to work on the shape of the team, show them what our opponents could be trying to do and we also went through a number of other things we couldn’t have done back home.
It was great for team spirit and while we were out there we were able to sit down and have half an hour long meetings on a one-on-one basis with every member of the squad.
Some of them, like Marc Laird for instance, are frustrated at not having played more. But, as I said to all of the players outside of the team, their chance will come soon – and it’s up to them to take it.
Saturday’s game with Exeter City is the first of five games in the space of 15 days so it’s going to test the resolve of the squad and we will have to make changes.
It’s then up to those coming in to do enough to stay in the side and put pressure on those currently in possession of the shirt.
I’m hoping that Luke Prosser will be giving me a selection headache this week as he seems ready to return to action after recovering from the operation he had on a fractured cheekbone.
Luke played in our hastily-arranged friendly match against Aalborg while out in Portugal and he’s now far more comfortable playing in the mask he will have to wear.
When he had his operation Luke suffered a reaction to the morphine which left him as a high as a kite.
Talking to him on the Friday, you could tell he just wasn’t the same as normal and unfortunately he wasn’t able to be involved at Mansfield.
But he should be fine for this weekend and it looks as though I will have to select two from three with Mark Phillips and Adam Thompson also vying for selection.
CONOR CLIFFORD BAN WILL HURT US
WE will be missing Conor Clifford for the next four games and it’s very disappointing because he was just starting to come back into some form.
We had seen that in training and he was very close to starting at Mansfield because of that.
When he first came on I also thought he really took the game by the scruff of the neck and I still maintain he recived a very harsh red card.
In his report the referee described it as a straight leg challenge over the top of the ball. But I thought Conor was trying to hook the ball it back into his path.
Conor is a physical player and we don’t want to take that from his game but I do think he’s going to have to learn from this because it’s no good to anyone if he keeps on getting suspended.
In the end, we decided not to appeal against his red card because it’s incredibly difficult to get these things overturned.
We saw that when we appealed against the red card Mark Phillips got against Dagenham earlier on in the season, and you have to prove something was drastically wrong with what happened.
It’s been interesting to also see what’s happened with Craig Bellamy and Yaya Toure this week and when you do change a decision I think everyone starts to think the club in question is getting preferential treatment.
FULL COLUMN IN THURSDAY'S ECHO