10:00AM, Saturday 22 August 2020
Rebels fans have been told not to expect any ‘marquee signings’ this summer, but the club’s management team will run the rule over several trialists in this week’s behind-closed-doors pre-season friendlies at Bracknell Town tomorrow (Saturday) and Windsor FC (Tuesday).
The club revealed its pre-season friendly programme this week, with four tough tests against National League clubs to come in September, but before that a number of new faces will be given the chance to impress against lower league opposition and force their way into Jon Underwood and Neil Baker’s thinking.
The management team know they need to fill a couple of positions, most notably left-back after George Wells signed for near neighbours Maidenhead United. However, some business has already been done, with Jack McKnight and Aaron Kuhl signing up for the new campaign, while Paul Hodges has returned from injury and will complement the squad after only playing a couple of matches last season.
“The season is still so far away,” said Baker. “For us it’s still six weeks away.
“We’ve done three sessions, every Thursday, over the past three weeks and we’ve had some new faces train with us. It’s felt fresh and the new faces in the camp have given everyone else a push on to impress as well.
“We’re using the games against Bracknell and Windsor to look at a few lads. Whether they become squad players, whether they don’t quite make it, we don’t know yet. We’ll play Saturday and Tuesday and then we’ll have another week off. Then we don’t have another game until September 15, so that’s a nice little break again before we step it up with four tough pre-season games to take us into the start of the new season.
“We’re not going to be signing loads and loads of players. We’re not able to do that. We’ll hopefully add to the squad, but we won’t be making any marquee signings as such between now and the start of the season.
“We need to bring in a left back, obviously, after losing Wellsy (George Wells). But we’ve got a few options for doing that. We might have to wait until the last minute on a couple of those, but we’ve got an experienced player playing for us in these next two games.
“He’s been playing at the level and we’ll see where we go with that.
He added: “I also look at Paul Hodges. We brought him in last season, but he only played one and a half games for us. He played at Chelmsford, then played really well at Dorking before he was sent off. Then he got injured in a friendly on the Tuesday and he didn’t play for us again. He’s almost like having a new signing as well.”
The Rebels might have to be more frugal with their spending this summer, but Baker claims that’s not the case for a few of Slough’s rivals.
However, he’s hopeful they can assemble a hard-working, honest squad that is capable of pushing for a play-off finish once again.
“There is still money around ridiculously,” he said. “You only need to look at some of the spending some clubs are doing to see there’s money around. We can’t compete with some of the sides in the league financially, that’s a fact. But we’ll give it a go. We’ve got a together squad, we’ve shed a few and we’ll bring a few in. We’ll have a hard working, honest team and that gets you somewhere. There’s no guarantee that we’ll make the play-offs, but that’s our intention again. Our stall will be set out to emulate last season and we’ll aim to get ourselves into the play-offs.
“We overachieved last year, no question. Some people won’t necessarily understand that, but we did, and we’ll have to overachieve again next season if we want to get there again.”
Slough will step up their pre-season preparations from the middle of September, with tough tests against Boreham Wood (September 15, home), Weymouth (September 19, home), Aldershot Town (September 22, home) and last season’s National League South champions Wealdstone (September 26, away). Baker has long since come to disregard the importance of pre-season results, but he hopes these games against National League opposition will be a good workout and get the players into the right mindset for the season.
“I honestly couldn’t give a monkeys about pre-season results,” he said. “The more you look at it the more you realise they don’t matter. Chelmsford were a perfect example last year. They won all nine of their friendlies and hardly conceded a goal, yet, by their standards and with their budget, they had a terrible season.
“I used to worry about playing too many strong teams that we might end up with a number of defeats, but it’s actually irrelevant. They will be tough work outs; we won’t have easy games and the lads won’t be able to go into these games half-hearted.
“But that’s what we wanted and, if we get beat, we get beat. I’m not really fussed about the results.”
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