Aluko: We Can Handle Expectation
Saturday, 25th Jun 2022 18:38
Sone Aluko believes it is only right that he and his colleagues will carry a weight of expectancy into the new season, bookmakers and fans alike having confidence in Town as promotion contenders in what will be their fourth successive season in League One.
Rather than seeing it as a burden to the players, 33-year-old Aluko explained: “Of course expectations are going to be high and so they should be for a club of this size.
“We have a good squad and we’re fully aware of what we want to do. We played some good football last season but we finished in 11th place and that’s not where we want to be.
“Our points tally wasn’t bad, to be honest, but in the new season we want to push to be right up there at the top and we believe we can. No one is hiding from the expectation that we should get promoted.
“I’m well aware of that, the manager’s well aware of that and the squad are well aware of that and we look forward to the challenge.
“If you can’t handle that you shouldn’t be at any club because no matter where you play your football there's some expectation.
“No club is wants [players to think], 'Oh, we're going to get relegated this year'.
“Even if you're at the bottom you want to fight to stay in the league so that's an expectation in itself.
“If you want to be a footballer, if you want to be paid good money, if you want to earn a good living, you've got to deal with the pressure otherwise you might as well just go and play five-a-side. That’s the nature of the game and we can handle it.”
Aluko was talking after today’s visit to neighbours Needham Market, where manager Kieran McKenna fielded two different line-ups in each of the two 30-minute halves, clocking up an impressive 7-0 win after leading by a solitary goal in the opening period.
The much-travelled winger, who can also operate in a role behind the front men, said: “It was good. I enjoyed it and it’s always good to get back out there after a tough first week’s training.
“I thought we gave a good account of ourselves and I thought they did as well to be fair, especially when you consider they have not done a lot of pre-season work.
“I spoke to one of their directors and he said they had only done a couple of sessions before today, so to come out and play the way they did in the first half was very impressive. They look like a good team.
“The pitch was good but you usually find the grass is a bit longer in pre-season and that makes it a bit more difficult to run with the ball, but for a non-league side they should be very proud of themselves.
“We got the minutes in, got the hard work in and we were happy with the result in the end. Pre-season doesn’t get any easier – I think this is the 16th of my career – but it’s something we have to do and we have to find a way to get through it and enjoy it, and make sure we put the work in.
“You need to enjoy the fact that it’s uncomfortable at times because you know the advantages will come later in the season.
“Games like this are a way back into it and to get us focused, and getting your mentality right in terms of preparing for games. We’re not taking anything for granted. We’re in a very privileged position doing what we do but every time we’re on the pitch we have to give our all.
“We press hard, we run hard and we’ll reap the benefits of our pre-season programme when we start the season at home to Bolton at the end of next month. We won’t be taking it easy in any of our pre-season games and I think we showed that today.”
It was a first chance in eight weeks, since Town ended last season with a 4-0 home thrashing of Charlton Athletic, for supporters to see the team in action and the travelling contingent quickly snapped up tickets to ensure a capacity Bloomfields crowd.
Aluko added: “Since I’ve been here the support has been incredible and we can already feel they are really behind us and excited about things going forward. It’s been a good day and I enjoyed the fact that the crowd were so close to us.
“Another big positive was that some of the new lads got some minutes under their belt, which is all part of the settling-in process, and they all looked good.”
When it was suggested there seemed to be plenty of positivity in the Town camp, Aluko elaborated: “We feel the club is going in the right direction and we have a strong squad with a good manager and good coaching staff.
“Everything is very positive and we just have to make sure we get the work done out on the pitch.”
Seasoned midfielder Dominic Ball, signed on a free transfer following his release by QPR, donned the Town colours for the first time and Aluko added: “I think Dom will be a great addition to the squad and the dressing room but I think all the new players will add something in their own way, although they will need time to settle in and get to know how we play.
“Dom knew the manager before and also a couple of the players, so that will help. Freddie [Ladapo] will be another senior player and I think we have a good mix in the squad between experience and youth.
“The young lads who have come into the squad look as if they have bright futures in the game and they just need to keep working hard to continue their progress. Cam [Humphreys] has looked really strong since we returned for pre-season training – he’s such a fantastic runner that he’s always going to stand out – and Tommy [Hughes] was good when he played in the second half today.
“Tawanda ([Chirewa] as well, he looked good, and all these lads know what they have to do to get games, they have to push, and pre-season is obviously a great opportunity for them to do that.”
Following another week at Playford Road, McKenna will be taking his players to Loughborough University as they step up their pre-season preparations and Aluko continued: “That’s going to be a tough week but it will be worth it when we get to the first game of the season. I missed most of last year’s pre-season because I came in late so I couldn’t comment on how this year’s programme compares.
“But the fact that I’m having pre-season here will definitely benefit me and I can already feel that I’m going to have a better start to the season than I did last year.
“It took me a while to get into my full stride when I signed last August so I made sure I came back for pre-season training in good shape and I’m expecting it to pay off for me by hitting the ground running.
“I can see it being a very different start for me this time. I’ll be setting myself a few targets for the new season but I’m not telling anyone else what they are.”
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