Fleetwood Town boss is as excited as ever about the new season going into Portsmouth opener
Simon Grayson is just as excited going into the 2021/22 season as he was when entering his first campaign three-and-a-half decades ago.
An experienced figure in the game, Grayson started his professional career at his boyhood club, Leeds United, as a 16-year-old.
Now looking to secure promotion from League One for the fifth time, the excitement is certainly still there in his role as Fleetwood Town head coach.
The 51-year-old has been pleased with the way things have gone this summer for the Cod Army, as Saturday’s season opener against Portsmouth draws nearer.
Highbury will be welcoming back the Cod Army for their first competitive action in more than 500 days.
Grayson will also make his bow in front of the Town faithful and has almost a full squad to choose from.
He said: “This is my 35th season, since I was a 16-year-old going into Leeds for the first time.
“There’s no difference really. There’s excitement looking forward to a new season, anticipation as a player and a manager for what the season is going to hold for you but, mainly, it’s the excitement.
“You’re happy with where you’ve gone so far and what you’re doing, and you can’t wait to see where the next nine or 10 months are going to take you.
“That is the same for every football fan up and down the land – every player and every manager will have these dreams, expectations, crisis meetings going through their thought process.
“Hopefully, somewhere down the line, you can have a really successful season.
“I was touching base with the staff the other day and I think we’re in as good a place as we can be.
“The fitness levels have been really good in the games so far.
“Unless something goes horribly wrong in the next 24 hours, we’ve got nearly a full complement of first-team players available.
“That’s the main thing that we spoke about at the start of pre-season, for me to have as many first-team players fit and available and as physically and mentally fit for the start of the season. We’ve managed to do that so far.
“We’ve worked hard, it’s been tough for the players. There’s no easy way of doing pre-season.
“I’ve been encouraged by the signs in the pre-season games and the training sessions.
“The proof will be in the pudding come Saturday and the next number of months.”
There has been plenty of change in recent years at Highbury, with three men in charge of the first team last season.
There is often a high turnover of players at League One level, not least at Fleetwood, but Grayson is happy with a squad that has a youthful look as well as some experience.
He said: “It’s a different type of squad.
“I think, when you look at last season’s squad, it had more experience in it.
“Not being disrespectful to those players, they were in the latter years of their careers and there is nothing wrong with that – it happened to me – but you can still play a big part.
“We’re a younger group, we’ve got a lot of energy about us – youthful exuberance – but also, within that group, you have experience.
“We’re going into the season with players who may be 19, 20, 21 years old but they could have 40 or 50 games under their belt which is a great learning curve over the last few seasons for them.
“That’s coupled with the likes of Anthony Pilkington, Tom Clarke and Jordan Rossiter, who are all older and wiser from the last couple of years as well.”
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