Mark previews Wednesday’s Real Betis friendly
Mark Robins believes the players are improving every day during pre-season – and knows they’ll need to step it up again when Real Betis visit for tonight’s home friendly!
The First Team showed promising signs in beating League 1 Rotherham United 1-0 at their New York Stadium on Saturday and Manager Mark wants to build upon it in tonight’s 7.45pm home kick-off against the Spanish giants.
“We’re doing ok,” Mark told htafc.com. “We’re looking to improve day by day, game by game and that’s what we’re seeing at the moment, so the signs are quite good.
“I was certainly happy with the performance on Saturday against Rotherham. There were certainly good signs there and we managed to get a win at the end of the game, so I have to be pleased at the moment.
“As I said before, there are good signs – but there’s still a long way to go. We still have time until the start of the season to get things better and cleaner, which comes with practise. We’re continuing to work on fitness, but there is now an emphasis on how we want to play and our style.
“We still have two weeks until the start of the season and there is a bit of work to do, but Wednesday’s game will be another good indicator for me in terms of how we win the ball back, keep possession when we have it and how we create chances against a really good side.”
Real Betis arrive in Huddersfield having qualified for this season’s Europa League courtesy of a seventh place finish in La Liga – ideal opponents for the Terriers to work on their defensive robustness.
Mark continued: “We need to be better at winning the ball back – and we’ll get a really good chance at that on Wednesday! Betis finished seventh in La Liga last year; they are a really good, strong side that will keep the ball.
“They are a club that I know quite well as I did a study visit there a few years ago; I went across there to see how they do things. It was an interesting visit. They have a magnificent training ground, which is similar to Canalside in that it has an area for supporters and a bar.
“It’s a big club, there’s no doubt. They have good, talented players in their squad – the likes of Juanfran – and we have a real game on this Wednesday.
“I think they are at an earlier stage in terms of their game preparation, which will hopefully give us more of a chance. It will be a different type of passing game as they will move the ball quickly, so we will have to be at our best to try and get a touch of the ball. Once we get it, it is very important we try and keep it.
“The players are looking forward to it. It is a good opportunity to play against a top La Liga side, even if it is in pre-season. The result is not all important; performance and fitness is the key.”
With 11 days to go until The Sky Bet Championship season kicks-off away at Nottingham Forest, Robins is still looking for players to stake a claim for a starting shirt – and has been impressed with the squad’s younger players so far.
“It’s the case for everybody that places are up for grabs. We’re trying things and we haven’t really kicked a ball in anger yet.
“It’s well documented what I think of Jordan Sinnott; he’s a talented footballer. I saw that last year, but he’s come back after a summer in the lad and physically he’s a different lad this season.
“He’s not a physical player though; he is a technical one. His range of passing is brilliant; he sees things and slides balls through, which we don’t really have in other positions. I’m really hoping he can push himself to the fore and I will try and include him as often as his performances merit.
“He’s an exciting player. I anticipated he’d be on the fringes now, but he can push right through.
“Matt Crooks is another one. Although he has potential, he was probably more on the fringes in my thoughts ahead of pre-season, but some of his performances have been excellent.
“He’s six feet five inches tall and physical, although he still hasn’t grown into his body yet – he’s still developing. He’s another exciting player that can do a lot of things with the football.
“I really like what I’m seeing from Jake Carroll and Danny Carr has done really well; he’s athletic, quick and has a trick. He still has that little bit of naivety in him, but sometimes that’s nice as he does the unexpected. He can finish too and he believes in himself more and more every time he sticks the ball in the back of the net.
“All those players I’ve mentioned have youthful exuberance and I think there is a lot for the fans to look out for. I think our recruitment has been very good to add to those already in the system.
“There are some exciting players that I’ve missed out because they are still a bit younger and I don’t want to put undue pressure on them, but we’ve got some really interesting talent coming through. Those lads will come to the fore eventually and when they do, there will be a pathway for them to get into the team.”
Together with Head of Football Operations Ross Wilson, Mark is also on the lookout for players that can improve the Town squad.
“Ross and I talk on a daily basis, because things move and shift constantly. We might do something before the season starts, but that might not be the case too – we’ll have to wait and see how things unfold.
“Ross is very, very helpful – he’s a great lad and he’s good at his job. He has an enormous amount of energy, but he’s also focussed and process-driven. He has good ideas about what he likes.
“Ultimately it is my decision whether people enter the building or not, but we have daily conversations and a great relationship as a team of four alongside the Chairman and Chief Executive.”
To finish, Mark gave an update on the injuries within the squad:
“Peter Clarke is doing ok. He had a knee operation in the closed season, but worked hard in the gymnasium. He works hard anyway – he’s the leader in this team. It’s great to have him back. He knows the game really well due to his experience, which is a great help to me on the pitch.
“We’re still missing Anthony Gerrard and I want him back fit and flying. He’s been a bear with a sore head for the last few weeks, so we’re all looking forward to getting him back.
“Calum Woods will be out for about three weeks with his shoulder, but that may end up being longer or shorter.”
Tonight’s 7.45pm kick-off against Real Betis is pay on the gate – click HERE for prices!