Graham Alexander says Salford City are eager to take to the field on Saturday afternoon after six months without a competitive game.
The Ammies host Rotherham United at The Peninsula Stadium in Round One of the Carabao Cup as the 2020-21 campaign begins much later than usual.
Nearly six months to the day since the last competitive fixture, a 2-0 win against Bradford City, there have been a number of changes including squad personnel and size, but after a five-week pre-season they are raring to go.
“We’ve been back at pre-season now for five weeks so the first competitive game is probably a week earlier than usual but I think the players are ready to play, they’re desperate to play,” said the Gaffer.
“The pre-season games have been okay from a fitness and planning perspective but I know from being an ex-player myself that you can’t wait to get down to the real stuff.
“It’s a real tough test for us on Saturday but we’re looking forward to it.”
The Millers were promoted to The Championship at the end of last season after finishing second in League One, their second promotion in three seasons.
Paul Warne has recruited well in the summer, learning from Rotherham’s 2018-19 relegation season, and they will be hopeful of maintaining their second tier status this time around.
It is the second time in two seasons Salford have been drawn against Championship opponents in the Carabao Cup, having welcomed Leeds United to The Peninsula Stadium last August. Pre-Season has been unusually challenging too and The Ammies gave a good account of themselves against Preston North End two weeks ago, so facing high calibre opponents might have helped preparations.
“We haven’t been preparing for this game specifically, we’ve been preparing for the league campaign that’s the most important thing for us, and with COVID and so forth we can only play certain standards of opponent because of the testing so it’s been a tougher pre-season than normal.
“For me it’s been invaluable because it’s not given us anywhere to hide and any things we had to improve on were pretty much highlighted straight away in each of the games so from that perspective it’s been brilliant.
“I think the players have approached it in the right way, they’ve worked really hard in training and we have used the games as part of the training programme so there’s been no let down in the training before or after the games; obviously once we get into the season we’ll prepare properly and give them the recuperation that’s needed but we had to make sure that the players got up to speed as quick as possible and in general I’m really pleased with the players’ fitness.
“Rotherham are in the Championship for a reason, they won promotion last year, they’ve been a very good, strong team for probably the last six or seven years now, and it’ll be a proper test for the boys.”
HOW TO WATCH
The game will take place behind closed doors, but a live stream with commentary is available to purchase for £10. Due to competition regulations this is only available in the UK.