Joyce unsure of squad
Warren Joyce has been pleased with his players’ pre-season performances ahead of the new-look Barclays Premier Under-21 League campaign, but is still unsure of the make-up of his squad next term.
Although there is Neil Simpson’s Testimonial clash against Aberdeen taking place on Tuesday night, which could feature some of the youngsters, the next competitive action for Joyce is the Under-21 opener at Stoke City on Saturday morning. With possible loan interest from other clubs likely to be stepped up, it is difficult to assess which players will still be at his disposal as the season starts to pan out.
After a 2-0 defeat at Peterborough on Friday provided another tremendous run-out for many of the 2011 FA Youth Cup winners, the coach feels fitness is very much the priority ahead of the big kick-off.
“It’s gone well,” he told MUTV, when asked about the pre-season. “It’s been two different teams going at the same time really with the lads who have been on tour coming back and trying to get their fitness up.
“Then there are lads who worked all the way through, playing other games as well as a lot of training, but we managed to keep the plates spinning around. There was a lot of hard work but it was enjoyable and we played some good football.”
The likes of Sam Johnstone, Marnick Vermijl, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Davide Petrucci, Tyler Blackett, Nick Powell and Federico Macheda started at London Road after going on the DHL tour and need to ensure they are in tip-top shape for the new season.
“Obviously, it’s good for them to be in and around the first team,” explained Joyce.
“They get a little taster of that but it’s also hard when they go away sometimes. When they’re travelling around, maybe they don’t work as much as they might have done if they were just preparing normally like the lads who have stayed.
“One or two found it difficult to last the pace of the game [at Peterborough] which is a bit disappointing in pre-season and just shows maybe where their levels are at when playing against a Championship side – especially if they hope to play in the Premier League.
“We’ll wait how it pans out and see who steps into the first-team squad and who goes out on loan. Then we’ll see who we’ve got left to work with. We’ve got quite high numbers at the minute, which is unusual for me to have, and, until that sorts itself out, we’re just looking to improve players.”