‘Well boss Stuart McCall admits he can’t wait to get back into games after seven days of intense training.
The first-team squad returned for pre-season last Tuesday and have faced a gruelling week of double and even triple sessions.
And whilst McCall is adamant that side of pre-season is crucial, he couldn’t hide his want to get back in the dugout for matches.
“It’ll be good to get off the training ground and back on to a pitch tonight,” said the former Bradford boss.
“Obviously, we are only about two-and-a-half weeks away from our first SPL game and despite the lads only being back for a week, they are already desperate for a game.
“We’ll probably play two teams tonight; one in the first-half and the other in the second. In these games, the players all want to get a touch of the ball and any manager will tell you that it’s not all about the result; it’s about fitness and sharpness.
“I am desperate for the lads to remain injury free after getting a good 45 minutes under their belt and finish the match after a good performance by all 22 players.”
McCall is also hoping to use the game to not only work on SPL preparations, but also as a springboard for some of the younger talent in the Motherwell squad.
Plenty of promising youngsters are on the fringes of the Fir Park first-team and the 46-year old former Scotland International is desperate for them to make a mark on the senior team.
He explained: “As games progress, you start to work more towards what you plan on being your shape and personnel for the opening games of the season.
[pullquote]Morton are good side who will be looking to push themselves in the First Division this year and I expect a very stern test[/pullquote]
“By the time the Partick Thistle game comes around, we’ll probably be working more on how things are going to work as opposed to now, which is all about the lads getting their touch and their fitness and sharpness back.
“You’ve also got to remember that we only have two new players at the minute – the rest of the squad is very familiar with how I like to play and how their teammates play. It’s different if you have six or seven new players and you are essentially trying to gel a team together. Having said that, we are pushing some of the kids like Carswell, Smith, Pollock and Lawless and others who I hope will make more of an impact at first-team level this season.
“These lads, having played very little or never under Kenny and I, have to get used to how we operate and how we want things done.”
With the Steelmen not finishing the campaign until after the Scottish Cup Final in May and the 2011/12 SPL season having been brought forward three weeks, it is perhaps the shortest close/pre-season ever.
McCall admits that fitting things in has been a challenge but praised the professionalism of his squad, all of whom reported back for training in good shape.
“I’ve been involved in an eight-week pre-season as a player, and that was with seven or eight weeks of a close-season too,” he recalled.
“This year, the players got five weeks off; we finished after the Cup Final on the 21st May and we returned on the 28th of June.
“Most teams have probably been back a week before us but we started last season before everyone in Europe and finished last in the Cup Final so it was important for them (the players) to rest both mentally and physically. We only have four weeks of pre-season and we’ve tried to cram a lot into the first week with morning and afternoon sessions.
“Gone are the days though when players report back a stone overweight. I think it was Arsene Wenger who really started the trend of having his players come back in good physical condition so they can start using the ball almost on the first day of pre-season, as opposed to running for the first week to get guys back into shape and lose weight. We’ve managed to do that and, allied with the hard fitness top-ups we’ve done, the lads look in good shape and I am positive about things.”
The Steelmen face a tough test against first division side Morton at Cappielow tonight and the ‘Well boss is expecting a stern test, “I think they’ve already had ninety minutes under their belt and were back in training before us so they might be a little sharper at the get go than us.
“Morton are good side who will be looking to push themselves in the first division this year and I expect a very stern test. I am sure the playing surface will be excellent and both teams will enjoy getting the ball down and playing some football.”