The Coasters arrived at Dale Barracks in Chester on Monday morning, ahead of their 5-day army camp. From Monday to Friday the players and staff will be based at the barracks, and use the on-site facilities to participate in a range of army-inspired training drills and leadership activities. 

While the week offers an opportunity to work on the players’ fitness levels, it is also valuable for team bonding ahead of the new National League North campaign that kicks off on August 14th. Building a strong team spirit and sense of togetherness has always been something that manager Jim Bentley held in high regard during pre-season, and he believes this week will help do exactly that. Speaking to from the barracks, he said:

“It’s really great to be here; we had a fantastic day yesterday. We will be in the Barracks until Friday, and then there’s a game on Saturday at Cefn Druids which we have planned for.

“We normally go for a six-week programme, however this year it’s going to be eight weeks because we missed a lot of training and games last season. Due to COVID, there hasn’t been much opportunity for team bonding and building spirit, so this is a great chance to bring the lads together in an environment that they aren’t used to. They get to spend the whole week under the same roof together, which is brilliant for building that togetherness which is fundamental throughout the course of a season.”

Jim also took time to praise the army staff who have gone out of their way to make everyone feel so welcome on day one, putting on a shooting drill on the firing range yesterday afternoon and some gruelling exercises this morning. He commented: “

“It’s a great set up for what we are wanting to get out of it. The army have been fantastic here – it’s all been set up by Jonty Castle and his links with the military, and like I say there is loads of opportunity to bring us together. There will be a couple of social events and we will let the lads go for a drink and a meal at some point. There’s all sorts of other things going on, such as problem solving, small group work that has been set up by the army. We’ve been on the rifle range, we’ve played some football, they can have some spare time to do there own thing.

“It’s all been well thought out what we’re doing, but the main thing for me is spending time together and being in each other’s pockets every hour of the day. It’s a different environment, normally they train and they go home to their families. To see them in a totally different environment and seeing how they bond is ideal for us to see who gets on and who stands out from the pack in terms of leadership. There are surprises too in this new environment, so it’s perfect for us in that respect that we can get a better picture of individuals outside of normal surroundings. It’s a great exercise.”

The camp leads nicely into a trip to nearby Cefn Druids, who are the oldest football club in Wales and compete in the JD Cymru Premier Division. After a narrow 1-0 defeat to Championship outfir Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, the Gaffer is hoping for another positive performance. He said:

“On Saturday we will be demanding more of the same. I think we will get better with the ball, but it’s important we don’t get ahead of ourselves.

“The lads haven’t played a lot of football recently, so we’ve had to speed up the physical training in the first couple of weeks, and now wev’e got to do the tactical work, the pyschological stuff and the social side of things. We are looking to gradually improve all of those elements over time; it doesn’t happen overnight. Stuff like mindset, fitness and other key aspects is what we want to see evidence of game-to-game. They’re the most important things as well as getting minutes on the pitch and, hopefully, staying injury-free.”