Dean Saunders said that he “can’t wait” to get the campaign underway on Saturday when Rovers travel to Walsall for their first game in League One for five seasons.
“Pre season is boring when the players are running and moaning about hard work. There’s no real pressure applied in pre season either until you get in to the heat of battle and it’s what everyone at the club wants, I’m ready and wouldn’t mind playing but I’ve got the next best job,” said Saunders.
Rovers go in to the game off the back of an exhaustive 120 minutes of football against York City in the curtain raising Capital One Cup first round fixture, which saw Saunders’ men progress thanks to a 4-2 penalty shootout win.
“I’ve said to the lads we’ve got to win whether it be by hook or by crook. If you do it playing football then great, but if teams stop you playing football then you must have a plan B and if that doesn’t work then you make sure your opposition don’t play well,” he said.
“Everyone will be fit (apart from long term absentees Neil Sullivan and Shelton Martis) and then we’ve added Jamie McCombe and Billy Paynter so that makes us a lot stronger. I’m trying to cram everything in this season without confusing the players too much.”
The six foot plus pair have added strength to the spine of the side and Saunders spoke glowingly of the duo who have joined as free transfers from Huddersfield Town and Leeds United respectively: “Jamie McCombe is an old-fashioned centre back who does the basics properly; he’s a big strong lad and I just felt that if you want to win any league or do well anywhere then you have to have centre halves who can head the ball away.
“He [Paynter] has come to do a job for the club and even in training, you can see the ball come across the face of the goal and it’s going in, whereas since Billy Sharp left we’ve missed too many chances or not been in those positions when the ball has come across the goal,” he said.
The Welshman, who has never managed in the third tier before, put his view on rumours circulating that there could still be comings and goings to his squad before the transfer window slams shut at the end of the month:
“We’ve got 17 as we speak and I’m just making sure that the final pieces in my squad, I get them right and cover all areas because the likes of James Coppinger might move and therefore I’ve got to have a rethink, so I’ve only got one or two players to add to the squad but I’ve got to make sure that if someone leaves at the last minute then I’m not bare in that area. I’m playing a waiting game myself.”
He finalised on the reported contact between Coppinger and Hull City, “We’ve had a bit of contact from Hull City but it hasn’t gone any further than that. As we speak, nothing’s been agreed and he was here training this morning. Everyone’s got their price and we’ve had to cut the budget, but it’s difficult to stop players going on and earning more money and playing in the league above. It’s difficult to keep them here, particularly when there’s been such a turnaround at the club. At the moment he’s training with us and nothings been decided. It would be a blow to lose him because I think we’ve got more of a chance if he stays, but I fully understand the situation at the club and have to work to a budget.”