Mike Gillick is ready and raring to go for new season at Shelford
Big changes on and off the pitch at the Davey Field
Having powered up the Gog Magog Hills as part of pre-season training, Shelford’s players are ready for an attempt to scale new heights.
Head coach Mike Gillick, who took over during last season and kept them in London & SE Premier, has assembled a new-look squad and revamped the backroom staff in order to create a winning culture at the Davey Field as they bid to stay well clear of relegation trouble.
Gillick and his staff have been working hard to address two major issues – the team’s poor away form and their tendency to start games slowly.
“It’s been a good pre-season and my first with the boys,” said Gillick. “We’ve worked really hard.
“The big focus for me was putting in some good effort off site as our record away from home hasn’t been great.
“We did some gruelling sessions up the Gogs doing circuits and hill sprints, and then a team barbecue afterwards as a reward.
“A big part of what I wanted to do was build a coaching team around me that took some of the workload off myself, but also provided individuals with specific areas of responsibility.
“We’ve got a bigger coaching team and I’ve been really impressed with how it’s worked over pre-season.
“We’ve got coaches with lots of knowledge who are all pulling in the right direction.
“It’s also good for the players to have different voices to listen to, but with the same messages being reinforced. And we’ve got more eyes focusing on what we need to work on.”
There have been numerous alterations to last season’s squad, with the likes of Redmond Newberry, Richy McIver, Al Whittaker and Charlie Parkhouse on the list of departures.
A host of new faces have arrived, while big characters like Rob Gardner, Charlie Baker, Teddy Hepworth and Matt Gregerson have been retained, with the latter fit and firing after missing the end of last season with a fractured cheekbone.
Shelford ended last season with three wins on the bounce against Towcestrians, Sutton & Epsom and Tunbridge Wells as they got themselves safe, ending 10 points above the drop zone in seventh.
“Last year was all about building into this season,” said Gillick. “Coming off the back of those three wins helps with momentum hugely, but this season’s going to be another challenge and it’s such a tight league.
“Last year we lost games we shouldn’t have lost earlier in the season having had complete control of them, and lapses of concentration also hurt us.
“We put ourselves in a difficult position in the league – half of that was our away form and our lack of ability to perform away from home, and then also inconsistency in performance.
“We’ve done a lot of work on trying to change the culture. We’ve got a young team so I’m not expecting world beaters, but I’m expecting to see a difference in attitude and intensity.”
After a 55-5 friendly win at Peterborough, there was bad news for Gillick at the weekend as their pre-season fixture at Kettering was abandoned, with the score at 19-14 to the hosts, after a serious patella injury to Jamie Beswick.
It adds to the blow of losing Henry Cowling and Joe Winter to long-term injuries, although the head coach is still hoping they can make a fast start in the league at home to Sidcup this Saturday.
“Sidcup should bring a really physical game and it will be a tough fixture, but it’s nice to be at home and hopefully we can get the season off to a good start,” said Gillick.
“I don’t want to focus too much on other teams or what they’ve done. I want to focus on Shelford, how we’re going to perform and how we can control games.
“We’re also notoriously slow to start games, so we want to go out with a high tempo and catch teams out.
“Winning can become a habit. If you can start well and get some wins then your season can become more fluent.”