John McGreal insists Colchester United’s pre-season is ‘better’ than last year

A thumbs up from Colchester United boss John McGreal during last Friday night's pre-season friendly

A thumbs up from Colchester United boss John McGreal during last Friday night's pre-season friendly against Gillingham. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United boss, John McGreal, believes that the current pre-season has eclipsed his first experience of the summer friendlies circuit from last year.

Twelve months ago, McGreal was a rookie manager just starting out on the first-team scene, having been appointed during the last week of the 2015-16 campaign.

Now the 45-year-old former Tranmere, Ipswich and Burnley centre-half has been able to draw on the experiences of that last year, and the last pre-season campaign in particular.

“It’s been a great pre-season, and I’d say it’s been a lot better than last pre-season,” insisted McGreal following last Friday night’s 2-1 home defeat to Gillingham.

“I was a little bit newer into the job back then. This time we’ve gone into it more with our eyes wide open. That’s now five-and-a-half weeks out of the way, getting the boys up to fitness. All the sports science department stuff has been done.

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“Most importantly, we have steered clear of injuries. The priority was to get the Slaters, Dennys, Kents and Szmodics’ up to speed, by getting loads of minutes after they had missed large chunks of last season.

“And we’ve done that,” added McGreal.

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Midfielder Craig Slater, striker Denny Johnstone, centre-half Frankie Kent and attacker Sammie Szmodics have all bounced back from missing the back-end of last term, and all have confirmed their return to fitness ahead of the new season, although Kent suffered a setback last week.

Slater and Johnstone both started against Gillingham, in the U’s last pre-season friendly, where summer signing Ryan Jackson was on target in the 2-1 loss.

Szmodics looked lively, coming off the bench, but Kent missed out altogether due to a knee problem, and so might be a doubt for the opening day test at Accringtom Stanley on Saturday.

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