Pre Rochdale Craic

With Charlie Wyke out until 2019, now would be the perfect time for Duncan Watmore to return. Jack Ross gave an update on Watmore’s progress. “He’s joined in with little bits of my work for the last eight to ten days,” Ross reveals. “It varies depending what work we’re doing. On Thursday he did a little bit with me and the rest of the group and that’s helped him mentally because he’s in with the first-team players again and not on his own. The thing is having suffered that injury twice it’s a really difficult thing to deal with. I’ve got a duty of care as a manager to make sure he doesn’t feel under duress to come back too quickly. He’s desperate to get back but he’s a smart guy and he understands he needs to be completely right physically and mentally. The conversations we’ve had, I think he appreciates that I would love to have him back, but we have to do it at the right pace. It’s good to see where he’s at with his knee and everything is really positive. He’s getting ever closer but I’d never put a timescale on it because I don’t want to put him under unnecessary duress. He’ll be back soon and when he does come back we certainly won’t rush him into starting games. We’ve got to make sure we get it right for him. If we get it right for him, the knock-on effect is he will be fit, fully fit, for a long period. That’s the benefit for me as a manager. He can play wide or upfront. The flexibility in how he plays has been shown. We have been hamstrung by not having a huge amount of wide options as well. Lynden (Gooch) has been the only one until Aiden came back. We only really had one you would class a completely natural wide player and Lynden can play centrally as well. Duncan stretches the game naturally and it probably doesn’t come very natural to many of them in forward areas. A lot of them are really good with the ball at their feet but to stretch the game, they need to be encouraged. Form everything I’ve watched and heard about Duncan, he does that whether in possession or out of position and that will help us when he comes back to fitness, whether that’s from a wide or central area.”

In other news, Dylan McGeouch will be available to face Rochdale, which is just as well because the midfield was non-existent at Burton and Max Power is still unavailable. “Dylan trained this week, so he should be fine,” said Ross. “Expectations are high that when you come back in, you hit top performance levels right away. It’s been frustrating for him, and for me, but Dylan will get there. He has trained well this week, he looks positive again, and it’s a case of not only building up his physical resilience but also mental resilience because he has been frustrated that he is not quite hitting the levels he knows he is capable of. That will come with games, but of course we have to make sure he is physically right for these games as well. I’m trying to push him because I want to make him physically resilient, but there’s a balance - a fine line. He is still relatively young and for the longevity of his career it is important that I push him to cope with it. It’s a new league, in terms of the demands, and new training. I don’t necessarily manage or coach the same way as [Hibernian manager] Neil Lennon, so there’s always an adjustment period for any player. What he’s keen to do is to avoid a situation where he is out long-term, and that’s why it’s been a little bit bitty so far. I think we’ll get there - I feel as though we are starting to get there with him, and hopefully he can get that run of games that will get him into the form we all know he is capable of. One of the things I spoke about when I brought him here was the demands of playing at the stadium, and how challenging that can be at times. I wanted him because of his willingness to take the ball, at all times, regardless of what is going on around him, and I think we’ve seen that already in pre-season. It’s a great trait to have and he will keep on doing that for us, recycling the ball and using it effectively. Once he is up and running, he will be a huge asset to us.”

Ross is also interested to see how the players react to their first defeat of the season, when they face Rochdale this weekend. “The good thing is as a group of players, they’re responsive to the information you give them, but I think they’re obviously quite self-aware,” said Ross. “So, they understand why they didn’t play last week and then the next challenge is obviously to put it right. It’s been interesting to see how they’ve reacted, and their response has been really good on the training pitch, so the next test is how they respond on a matchday. You will lose football matches at some point – we don’t want to, and the ambition is never to go and do that – but it will happen at some point. When that happens, it’s the reaction that’s the most important thing and that will be seen in terms of the performance level on Saturday. I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for what Keith Hill has done there, as his record has been terrific in terms of gaining the club promotions and establishing themselves in this league. They obviously had a good result last week and their away record is very good as well. It will be another tough game for us.”

Elsewhere, Didier Ndong’s latest excuse for failing to be a footballer is that he fears that he’ll be arrested if he enters the UK. Presumably this is some new law called Crimes Against Football. What a dick. His agent said: “In reality, Didier Ndong is afraid of reprisals and other sanctions that may be imposed on him by the club. He even thinks he will be arrested at the airport because he has left the club for almost seven months. Remember that the club is very up against him, including some of the audience. So, it’s hard for him right now. For this purpose, we commissioned a London-based negotiator to negotiate with Jack Ross, the team’s manager, for his return to the Black Cats. We hope they understand.”

All 2,628 tickets for Bradford City away, on Saturday 6 October, are now sold out. You can book transport via ALS here…