Wednesday 22nd June 2016

MANAGER Stevie Aitken stands to the side of the pitch at New Tinto Park, just far enough away from his charges so as not to be obstrusive, but close enough to give words of encouragement as players pass him and open up into a sprint.

It’s just after 7.30pm on a chilly June evening, and the Sons squad are beginning to sweat a little as pre-season training gets serious.

“Come on lads, push yourselves,” Stevie shouts. “We gotta keep working hard.”

This is the third get together of the 16/17 squad since Saturday – quite a committment for part-time players with day jobs and families – and the drills are fitness orientated but with ball work thrown in.

“This period in pre-season is the hardest for the lads,” explains Stevie.

“We try to keep thing interesting but with an emphasis on fitness, which is very important at the level we play at.

“Our first day back at Bellahouston was very important because after a few hours I’ll know whether or not the programme I have devised will be suitable. The lads themselves have to be honest and so far we’re all on the same page.

“Jamie Ewings has come back from the short break in great condition and looks sharp and everyone else too has been great. We do need to work on a few lads mind you, but that’ll come, of that I have no doubt.”

And the boss is loving every minute of the training sessions.

He continued: “Being back with the squad and the backroom team is where I want to be. We have a shorter close-season than we’ve been used to, but for the next couple of years whilst the Betfred Cup uses the group stages, it’s going to be the norm.

“My job is to make sure that ours standards are as high as possible.

“I told them on the first day of pre-season that I’m not here to waste any time and I said they haven’t got time to waste themselves.

“To me, every single yard, every single minute of that training session, counts.”

With the help of assistant Stevie ‘Faz’ Farrell, Aitken has outlined clearly what he wants from the players in the build up to the first set of friendly matches and he’s confident that everyone is on-board with his message.

With the session coming to an end and with the gaffer heading back to the changing rooms, he concluded with the following.

“It’s all about development, and that includes myself. Training sessions are not just for the players, but for the coaching staff too.

“Tonight we had Tony McNally along, our head of youth, to observe how we do things and to have a chat afterwards.

“This is encouraging and I know Tony is keen to have his coaches see how we do things.

“I’m all for that as we can learn from each other.”

Alan Findlay

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