Players believe they can achieve promotion
Confidence high in Boro camp
BELIEF. That’s what Stevenage players have in abundance according to Stacy Long.
A belief that last year’s Blue Square Premier champions can go on and achieve something special in their first season in league football.
However, if you take much notice of what the bookmakers have to say at this time of year, you will know that Boro are not fancied to make an impact at the top end of League Two this season, not even the play-offs – but try telling that to Long and Co.
“If any players didn’t then they wouldn’t be here. Never have I known at this club that seventh, eighth or tenth is good enough. We go for the best and if someone didn’t believe they wouldn’t be in this squad,” said Long.
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Graham Westley’s team have grown accustomed to winning in recent times and, although League Two will provide the team with a much sterner test, there is certainly no lack of confidence throughout the squad.
And, Long believes that, while the standard of opposition has changed, their winning mentality has not and it’s clear that expectancy levels will remain as high as ever throughout the upcoming campaign.
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He said: “Last season when we did lose a game we did really well at winning the next game. The squad will continue to have the exact same mentality – obviously it’s a different league but the mentality of the players turning a defeat into a win doesn’t change and we’ve got the strength and depth to deal with that.
“It’s important to make a good start. If you can make a good start then you’re looking back on everyone else and everyone is looking towards you and it gives you that power to push on. We want to hit the floor running when that first game comes and we don’t want to leave it five or six games to kick-start our season.”
So far this pre-season, manager Westley has been keen to experiment with different tactics and a new-look 4-3-3 formation seems to have taken preference over the 4-4-2 which was predominantly used last season.
However, while this may raise the question of ‘if it isn’t broke, why fix it’, Long says it will be important for the team to have a Plan B this year in order to adapt to different teams and situations.
He added: “It’s good to have two, three or even four different formations and getting used to various players playing in different positions to build up different partnerships and understandings.
“Pre-season is a good time to try these out so we will have them in our arsenal if need be throughout the season.
“I don’t know what formation the manager will play, though. It could change from one game to the next and it may depend on who we come up against and what works for us.”
In truth, Long isn’t overly concerned with what formation Westley chooses to deploy and is only concerned with making sure he makes the starting XI for the opening game against Macclesfield Town on August 7.
The 25-year-old was left frustrated at times last season after periods of being in and out of the team, but this time around the former Ebbsfleet man is hoping to be a mainstay throughout what he hopes will be another fruitful campaign.
He said: “I don’t want to be a fringe player that’s in and out of the team. I want to get myself in the first XI week-in, week-out and be part of a team that does really well again. We’ve got 23 or 24 players who could come into that first team which brings good competition and it’s a good thing to have around the training ground and on a Saturday.”