By Jamal Fyfield

THERE is one month every footballer dreads. One month during the summer break, that is at the back of your mind getting nearer and nearer as the days go by.

A month that cannot be prepared for no matter how hard you try. And that is the month of July, also known as pre-season. A month of hard work to get you fit and ready for the long season ahead.

If you asked 100 footballers if they enjoy pre-season, 99% will tell you NO point blank! Gone are the days of running players into the ground and making them contemplate another career path, these days its more specific to modern day football but it hasn’t got any easier. The legs still ache and the feet still get blisters but your happy knowing it’s all beneficial, and imperative for a good season.

With this being my second pre-season at Gateshead Football Club, I knew what to expect. Give it your all and the Gaffer will be happy. Quite simple and I relayed this message to some of the new boys. Our first day on the may have been a surprise to some of the new lads in the team but they took it in their stride and it was good to see everyone had a good level of fitness to begin the week off with. With Ian Watson, Nogs and the Gaffer easing us in to the swing of things I’d say the first day was a success.

With so many new faces in the team there’s nothing like a real football match to get everyone familiar with each other and to see players style of play. This is another way of players getting fit and ready for the season and most of the players will play at least 45 minutes, just to blow the cobwebs off and get used to playing again after two months off. Our first match was a 1-0 win over hard working Dunston UTS. Macaulay ‘Macca’ Langstaff got the goal and it’s fair to say we could have scored more on the day, but a win is a win and I’m sure most fans would have enjoyed the game.

A bad tackle during the Dunston game restricted me to be a spectator in a game I was looking forward to being a part of. In pre-season you sometimes come up against opposition from higher or different leagues that can test you mentally as well as physically. While working hard when in possession, you must work just as hard to concentrate when out of possession when facing better players. That was certainly the case when we faced Motherwell in our second pre-season game. We ran out worthy 3-2 winners but there were some nervy moments towards the end as we conceded two late goals to make the score line look a little more flattering for our visitors.

A confident 4-0 win followed against Billingham Synthonia and it was good to see Scott Barrow and Danny Burns score for their new club. Two 1-1 draws followed against South shields and Whitby town, but it gave us much needed fitness and reminded us that sometimes teams will happily put 10 men behind the ball to stop our attacking threats. It’s up to us to find different ways of breaking teams down.

By this point pre-season is in full flow, the team has gelled well through training and gym sessions as well team bonding meals and a Whatsapp group full of jokes and banter. Training is tailored to get the best out of us and Nogs and the Gaffer do all they can to make sure were well drilled and know our jobs.

The next two games I played in were disappointing losses to Newcastle and Harrogate town, but valuable lessons for the season can be learnt from such games. Sometimes you learn more from the bad ones than you do the good. Sandwiched in between those games came the birth of my first child. I was due to start against Darlington but I received a phone call during the warm up saying that my partner was due to give birth at any moment. Luckily, I made it in time and I’ll never forget holding my little girl while still in my Gateshead football kit.

I think it’s fair to say it’s been an eventful pre-season for myself but also a good pre-season for the team, even if the results or even the performances haven’t always suggested as such. Objectives have been set out for where we want to finish and the hard work has been put in on the training field.

The dreaded month is over now and the real stuff starts tomorrow with the first game away to Woking FC. For another year, at least July is just a distant memory.