MICKY Mellon leads his Fleetwood Town squad into the Austrian Alps today saying their new signings have elevated the club to new heights.
Six new recruits – they hope to add a seventh this week – have joined the club’s continental training camp and have made most favourable first impressions on the manager.
Mellon said: “The new players are shaping up very well. They have lifted the professionalism of the whole group to a new level and have already made a massive impact among the lads. They are all enjoying getting fit.”
After two days based near Salzburg, the squad today moved on to the Obertraun fitness centre they visited two years ago.
Mellon added: “It’s a fantastic environment and facilities, and we are getting some very good work under our belts.
“The lads are much further on fitness-wise than I thought they would be. They have been very professional in the summer and that’s very pleasing. They are hitting their fitness-test marks already.”
Mellon pleased the players by doing ballwork from day one in Austria. He explained: “We try to keep training as specific and as interesting as we can, so we involve the football as soon as possible. Anyway, it would be criminal not to use these pitches.”
The manager knows competition will be fiercer than ever for places in his starting XI for the opening match against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup on August 13, but he added: “It’s very, very early and there’s a long way to go before we start picking teams, but I’m delighted with the whole group. They have come back in such good shape and with the bit between their teeth.”
Among those most anxious to impress will be Rob Atkinson after a season blighted by injury.
Having started the campaign as first-choice centre-half, the 25-year-old broke an ankle against Newport in October – Town’s last defeat before a 29-match unbeaten run propelled them to the Conference title. Skipper Steve McNulty and Nathan Pond established themselves as Town’s central defensive duo for the rest of the season and Atkinson faces a huge task to reclaim his shirt.
Atkinson said: “Last season started well for me. I was involved in the first 15 games, but to get an injury like that was very unfortunate.
“The lads did magnificently while I was out and we gained promotion to the Football League, which was the aim. I’d have liked more games but it was a successful season for the team.
“We have four good centre-halves at the club (Kieran Charnock is the other) fighting for two positions, so we all need a good pre-season. Hopefully, I’ll do enough to catch the manager’s eye and get a starting slot for the first game.”
Interviews: DERICK THOMAS