Jake Gallagher has kindly offered us his thoughts on why pre-season doesn’t matter…

Pre-season is win-win as a football fan. If your team didn’t do well in the five or six games that occur before the league action commences, then it doesn’t matter because it’s only pre-season. If your rivals are putting good results together, then it doesn’t matter because it’s only pre-season.

Jordan Stevens celebrates his opening goal in the pre-season friendly win at Buckland Athletic.
Picture courtesy of Iain Morland.

Depending on the biased view of your team or of that lot from down the road, pre-season doesn’t matter. That is of course, until it does.

Last season’s National League South winners Ebbsfleet United started their title-winning campaign with nine consecutive league victories. The first club to stop them earning three points were Oxford City who ended the season promoted themselves. Simply put, Ebbsfleet started like a train.

Ebbsfleet scored 15 goals in those 6 friendly games, at an average of 2.5 goals per game

Now if you look back to their pre-season of 2022 – and do remember that none of this actually matters – they won 4, drew 1 and lost 1. The loss coming against West Ham U21s and 2-2 draw against League Two outfit Colchester United. Their wins were good results, on paper at least, including a 3-1, a 1-0, a 3-0 and a final pre-season fixture that ended in a handsome 5-1 victory.

Ebbsfleet scored 15 goals in those 6 friendly games, at an average of 2.5 goals per game (gpg). When the season began, that average increased to 2.8 gpg. On this occasion, a good pre-season equalled a good start to the league.

Next let’s check on Maidstone, the National League South champions from the season before that.

Their pre-season of 2021 – and remember once more that none of this matters – they won 5, drew 1 and lost 1. They scored 20 goals in 7 friendlies, that’s 2.8 gpg, and saw them propel into the season proper with 6 wins in their opening 8 league matches, drawing the other two, scoring 2.4 gpg.

There’s a trend here; Good pre-season = good start to the league.

Shall we now cast our eyes back to Yeovil Town’s last pre-season? I’m talking about the beginning of Chris Hargreaves’ short spell at the club.

Chris Hargreaves

In our pre-season of 2022 – and remember for a third time that none of this matters – we won 1, drew 3 and lost 1. We scored 0.4 gpg in those friendlies which saw us begin the campaign with 1 victory in 11 league matches scoring 0.9 gpg.

The trend? Bad pre-season = bad start to the league.

Listen to any football manager and they’ll tell you pre-season is about fitness levels and getting through games unscathed

In Mark Cooper’s pre-season of 2023 (so far) – which doesn’t matter – we’ve won 5, drawn 0 and lost 1 scoring 3 ggp on average. So can we expect a good start to the campaign given the good results in our friendlies? You’d have to hope so.

Listen to any football manager and they’ll tell you pre-season is about fitness levels and getting through games unscathed. But it’s absolutely, categorically, much more than that.

Pre-season is about setting standards, creating good habits, a good culture, and gaining confidence through good performances. At this level player turnover is high, so it’s likely players be playing with new teammates or have a new teammate to play next to. It’s about forming strong on-pitch relationships and understanding each other’s strengths. Winning is a bonus but winning – friendly game or not – is what football is all about.

The performance against League Two Newport was a good one. If you can put aside that the Welsh side were utter shite there are many positives to take into our opener against Hemel Hempstead Town. Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty to work on; Morgan Williams didn’t look comfortable receiving the ball in the middle of a back three and Jake Wannell didn’t show enough aggression when defending corners aerially, but these are small points to pick up on.

I’ll level with you and admit all the numbers I’ve referenced earlier in the piece is a shallow analysis – there’s no deep dive here. It’s based on results only. As I mentioned earlier in the piece though, winning is what football is all about.

Winning breeds confidence in yourself.
Winning breeds belief in your teammates.
Winning breeds trust in the management team and their methods.

If you can get to full fitness, avoid injury, feel like you’ve performed well while garnering strong connections and partnerships with your teammates AND win games, then pre-season matters. It always matters.

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Andy Pandy
8 months ago

A nicely written piece, Jake.