Stuart O'Keefe happy to kick pre-season off with a win.
Midfielder Stuart O'Keefe took time out to reflect on Saturday's 2-0 win over Folkestone with the local media, saying the victory had brought to an end a "good week."
Here is what he had to say:
Q: Stuart, it finishes 2-0 against Folkestone. I know that the result isn’t everything, but in terms of the performance and fitness, just give us your thoughts.
A: It’s the end of a good week. Obviously, we’ve only been back for 10 or 11 days, so to come here in a tough fixture against a good outfit, the boys got through it well. We got 45 minutes in our legs with no injuries, and a lot of the younger boys did really well in the second half. It’s a positive week for us to take into next week.
Q: It was a real mix of players today. First team players, players on trial and the academy youngsters. How do you think the academy lads got on?
A: Really well. They’ve been with us all week. We are relatively short on numbers, so they’ve had to be involved with us straight away in training and fair play as they’ve all stood up to it. They’ve been excellent, and they’ve grown, and they’re getting more confident. Days like today will help them. I thought that they conducted themselves really well and put in a professional performance for boys that haven’t really played at this level.
Q: Most of you got 45 minutes, and I know you didn’t play with him, but Shaun Williams has come in. He’s a real experienced campaigner. How have the new lads, including Shaun, settled?
A: Really well, to be fair. Shaun was always going to settle in well, he’s played at a high level for a lot of his career. He’s an experienced player and a great lad. He’s settled in straight away, and the boys have taken to him. His experience will be vital throughout the season, on and off the pitch. He looks composed, and he’s a great addition to the squad.
Q: In terms of the overall condition of the squad, physically, you’ve been back for 10 to 11 days now. How have the boys come back?
A: In good condition. Everyone’s hitting their targets, and everyone looks good in the running and the sessions. There have been no injuries, and it’s about getting through these days. They can be slogs and can be hard.
I know the boys don’t really like pre-season because it can be tough long days, but it’s about getting through it, getting the work into your body and taking it into the games. That’s what we’ve done today, and we look forward to next week now, with another tough test.
Q: Of course, that’s Dover Athletic. You’ve got a week’s build-up to that. Is it more of the same this week with the hard slog of pre-season?
A: We will have tomorrow off to recover right. We will come in Monday expecting another tough week of training, as it should be. We will take what we do in the week into Saturday against a tough opposition and get more minutes in our legs and go again as we build-up to the start of the season.
Q: I think there were eight youth team players today. What’s it like playing with so many of the young lads?
A: For me, as one of the most experienced boys, I’ve got to help them as much as I can and talk my way through the game and give them confidence. I think that they’ve taken to it really well. They’re good lads that want to learn and want to get better, and days like today will stand them in good stead to keep on progressing in their careers.
Q: You were in front of a very young defence. David [Tutonda] was the only senior one there, but they held their own?
A: Absolutely, and against non-league teams, it can sometimes be hard, and physical. It’s men’s football. I thought that they stood up to it and had a great second half. They’ll take that into training next week and have another tough game against Dover next Saturday. Fair play to all of them as they did really well.
Q: How are you feeling at the start of almost two weeks back?
A: I feel good, fit and ready to go. It’s just about building up the minutes, not getting injured, and working towards the first game of the season, which we know is going to be very hard, physical and robust. We need to make sure that everyone is ready and fit.
Q: Can you already think about that first game of the season? Or are you taking it by the day?
A: Not so much. Everyone keeps an eye on the fixtures, and we saw that when they came out. We had a little conversation about it. However, it’s just day-by-day at the moment, and every day is tough. It’s just about getting through each day, building up the legs, building up the minutes, working it into the next pre-season game and working it towards Wimbledon at the end of the month.
Q: Felt okay after the 45 today?
A: I feel good. It’s good to get back out there. You’ve had six to eight weeks off, so it’s nice to get the boots on again, and having a runaround, and getting used to feeling the ball again. It’s a good workout.