Nigel Adkins believes this weekend’s friendly with Wolves will be an important part of his squad’s progression in pre-season.
Wanderers dropped out of the Barclays Premier League at the end of last season, but have retained the vast majority of their team which has also been supplemented with new faces that will provide Adkins’ side with a strong test on Saturday.
“We looked at the whole structure of the programme and we believe that this is another stepping stone towards what we want to achieve this season,” Nigel told Saints Player.
“There are lessons that we’re learning all the time, improvements on fitness and I think we’re getting towards where we need to be from a fitness point of view. The players are working so hard and we’re delighted about that that.
“The progression from the programme that we’ve had so far is really kicking in this week which is quite evident from the fitness testing that we’ve done during the course of the week, and the players feel fit and strong.
“The important thing is again building ourselves up so that the players can get through the 90 minutes comfortably and without a risk of injury to themselves – at this moment in time, we’re in good shape.”
Wolves follow hot on the heels of last week’s workout against Ajax, which gives the manager an opportunity to further trial ideas ahead of the new campaign.
“That’s why we’ve structured our programme so that we learn as quickly as possible and during the course of the season we’ll be learning as well,” he explained.
“I’d like to think that we’re a progressive football club and one that does learn. We’re in a great environment and a culture to learn in but we’ve got a winning mentality about ourselves. We want to play a certain way respective of passing the ball effectively and we want to win, so it’s making sure that we find a way to win.
“We’ve structured it all the way through, and we’re just going to manage things with the object of when we arrive with our team selection for the Manchester City game everybody is fit and available for selection because that’s the art of getting through pre-season, keeping fit and conditioned with an understanding of how we want to go and play with the ball and without the ball.
“There’s a good team spirit and we’ll continue to do the same things in the next three games.”
Places remain up for grabs as the gaffer turns his attention towards formalising his 25 man squad for the Premier League, and Nigel says that the players are fully aware of the standards required to make the cut.
“You can see how hard they’re working that they all want to be a part of it and I must congratulate the players on their work ethic and their attitude because it has been exemplary.
“I know that there can only be a squad of 25 players that will be named and nominated to go forward and all of the lads want to be a part of it, they want to be a part of a great football club.
“The lads work very hard as I’ve underlined and there will be one would imagine one or two who might end up being disappointed, but we’ve got to make sure that we look after them as well because whilst you’re a player at Southampton you work very, very hard and we should be respective of that.”
Some players who appear to be closer to an exit than others include Lee Barnard, Jonathan Forte, and Ryan Dickson who have not been involved with the first team squads during pre-season, and Adkins wants to reach an amicable outcome with the players who won’t be involved moving forward.
“It’s fair to say that,” he stated. “They’ve been with us, but I’m looking at the big picture and trying to do things early enough for them.
“I know that their agents are working actively and the boys have been keeping themselves fit and are working very hard in the environment that we’ve got, but likewise they need to play football as well so everyone is working very hard to make a win-win situation.
“There’s interest in those players because they are good quality and I would imagine that as the weeks progress something will probably materialise for the guys, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“You want to give players the opportunity to move on quickly, but in this situation you can see that they are not going to feature as much as they would want to. It’s important too for the football club because as I say we’ve got to keep progressing the same as last season so that there will be a natural evolution of the squad, which you have to do to keep on moving forward.
“I’ve highlighted that we still intend to bring players in,” Nigel added.
“We believe that we’ve got a strong group of players and we’re trying to enhance that. The attitude of the players has been exemplary, they all want to be a part of it and if we can keep on improving on what we did last season then we give ourselves an opportunity.
“There’s nothing that I can report of anyone putting pen to paper yet though, so on that note we’ll just have to move on and keep working very hard.”
Click here to watch Nigel's full interview with Saints Player, while you can see his press conference here.