With Berwick’s pre-season drawing to a close this Saturday at Alloa Athletic, manager John Coughlin has backed his summer recruits to add to the players he retained for the new campaign.
Speaking to the club’s official website, John revealed that he has been using pre-season not only to build fitness, but also to learn more about his squad.
“The pre-season is used to try and analyse what you have. I was confident when I took the players I have on that they’d do a job for the club. Having seen more of them, I think that we’re in a better position with the players we have, than we’d have been with the players we’ve let go, certainly.
At times it has been difficult as, owing to player holidays, we’re yet to really have the whole team together. But one thing I have learnt about us is that we’ve got a bit of character about us already.
“My agenda was to ensure that we were physically prepared for the season, and I think we’ve achieved that. Ability-wise, I do think that there are still questions to be answered, there’s no doubt about that, but at this stage we’re still looking at what the players can offer us and how we can best utilise them.
“And that’s why we’re taking the tough tests we’ve taken. Hibernian, Gateshead and Alloa are three tough games, and we’ve also got some tricky Betfred Cup ties. We’ll find out a lot about the ability within the squad over the course of those matches.
“Training has been brilliant. Everyone wants to get fit during pre-season, but it’s actually when the chips are down during a game that you begin learning more about your players.
“We’ve had that in one case already in the Hibs game once already, and we went on to perform reasonably well in that game – I’m sure everybody was happy with their performance in that one, so if that’s the standard we’ve set then great, but we’ve got to find a way to maintain that.”
Speaking to BBC Radio Newcastle’s Simon Pryde on Tuesday evening, Coughlin admitted that he learnt another lesson about his squad, as a tired Berwick side went down by four goals to nil against Gateshead.
“I don’t think we acquitted ourselves anywhere near as well as we did against a good Scottish Championship side last week. We looked a bit dishevelled by the end of the match and we didn’t match the intensity.
“For the first twenty minutes we more than held our own, but our performance descended into chaos a little when we continually gave them encouragement by giving the ball away.
“To be fair they’re a big strong side, very athletic. We looked tired, really tired tonight, but I do think we should be performing better than we did.
“That said, I’m not overly concerned – I’d rather it happened now than when the season starts. But my biggest concern tonight is that we didn’t pass the ball well, we didn’t keep possession. The shape didn’t function well, and if we don’t have that against good sides we’ll struggle.”
Speaking to the official website, Coughlin went on to hint that he believes all of his summer acquisitions are ready to challenge for a position in the first-team, stating: “The players I’ve signed are all guys that I hope are going to make an impact this season.”
“I felt last season we were a mid-table club, but I think that we’re in a much better position than we were last year. The five or six additions are the ones that will add to what we have kept on, and hopefully that’ll allow us to push us on to the next level.”
Whilst Coughlin was open in his belief in the need for a more physical ‘Gers side prior to his summer signings, it’s clear that a battle-hardened defence isn’t the only area he is hopeful about ahead of the new season.
Before the ‘Gers friendly with Gateshead, Coughlin discussed the ‘Gers frontline. “Darren (Lavery) has maybe been a wee bit behind as he missed a bit of training, but I thought he put in a fantastic shift against Hibernian from a deeper position.
“Going forward I want to see if we can get a partnership going between Darren Lavery and Jordyn Sheerin, so throughout the early part of this season I will be looking to see how these guys work together.”