Head Coach Ian Watson, Looks Ahead To Sunday’s Pre-Season Friendly At Rochdale In The Company Of David Clegg
After the thrills and spills, twists and turns that made up their 2016 season Salford Red Devils take the field at Spotland, this coming Sunday, for the run up to the start of the new season, when they take on Rochdale Hornets in the first of their three pre-season friendlies.
For Head Coach, Ian Watson, now at the start of his second season in charge, the purpose of the fixture is to move the players from training mode into combative role as they transfer their training ground practices into a game situation.
“These friendlies are all about working on the things we have been developing during the pre-season to make them better,” he explains.  “This first match, in particular is about getting game time for everyone, and certain people need more of this than others, so we will be prioritising those people.
“Alongside this, we will be wanting to look at some of the younger players.  Ryan Lannon, for example, played nine or ten matches over last season, and we will be looking at building further, upon that, this year.  Similarly, Josh Wood had his season cut short with injury, while Jake Bibby had a good spell up to and including our first visit to Headingley, but it is now important that these lads get back into playing again.
“We also have some young players who have not played for us before, such as Kriss Brining who joined us at the start of pre-season, and Matty Wilkinson who will be able to stake a  claim to come more into the reckoning this coming season.  They are both hookers, and it is great to have such young talent for this key position.  This game will be the next step in their development; they have been performing well in training, and they now need to take that forward into a game situation, where their true potential will be shown.”
In addition to the developing younger players, the squad has been bolstered by the acquisition of a couple of more experienced players, such as former Wigan prop, Lee Mossop.
“We have been working on getting Lee back up and running, after injury,” he reports, “and he has been back in full contact for a while now, so it is important that he takes that into these, games so that by the time we get to the Wigan game, he is fully back up to speed.
“With both ends of people’s playing career being worked upon, it puts us in a really positive position, and we just want to keep on going in that direction.”
Coaches, as a general rule, are invariably circumspect about the importance of the result of such pre-season friendlies, but in this respect, Ian is quite forthright in his expectations, and pulls no punches in what he says.
“We want to win every game we play in,” he informs me, “and while results of friendliest can invariably be unpredictable, we had that mantra of always aiming to win last year, and we are going to be no different this season.
“It doesn’t matter against whom, and where we are playing these games, we have got to turn up ready to play.  This first pre-season friendly is going to be against a good Championship side which will test us to the full.  They’ll ask a few questions, and in a different environment, which is just what we need now.
“The boys are doing some really good stuff in training but that is not the same as doing it under a game specific intensity, and that is what we want to see from them.”
One of the benefits of playing against lower league opposition is that whole environment is somewhat different from that of Super League, though as Ian points out not to the detriment of the quality of the game.
“Spotland is also home of the Rochdale football club,” he reminds us, “and so the playing surface has to measure up to the standards required for them, and that was one of the reasons we looked to playing them last year – because it is a good quality pitch.
“We have some really good athletes, and so we would not be wanting them to have  on a quagmire, so that they can express themselves.  It will set our lads up for playing at venues like Wigan, Hull and Leeds, not to mention our own A J Bell Stadium.”
So with the start of the season only a few weeks away, the aim is to be fully prepared for that opening game.
“Getting to the start of the season fully prepared, fully fit and healthy is paramount, now,” he insists.  “Balancing the right amount of time on field for each individual will be of utmost importance over all three friendlies.
Match Officials:
Referee – Mr J Roberts
Touch Judges = A Tollet, A Williams