Mouth of the Tyne column: Pre-season and why I love it

Herts Ad's Neil Metcalfe looks on as St Albans City take on Northampton Town in pre-season. Picture:

Herts Ad's Neil Metcalfe looks on as St Albans City take on Northampton Town in pre-season. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

In the first of a semi-regular column Herts Advertiser’s Neil Metcalfe looks at the joys of pre-season with our resident Geordie casting his eye over St Albans City’s build-up in particular.

Ah, pre-season. Loved by some, despised by others as a huge waste of time and not important.

But which ever side of the coin you fall on it is as much a part of the football season as cup finals and gloomy midweek away trips to freezing outposts.

I’m in the first category. For me pre-season is a chance to go to a football match and simply watch it without all the worry and stress of producing an on-the-whistle match report, live tweets and every other thing that is now part of the modern journalists’ match day.

It’s also a time when things are much more relaxed, everyone is a bit chattier as there isn’t that much pressure knocking about and you get to know players and managers that bit better.

I’ve taken in a total of 12 this year, eight of which have seen Saints in action, which means I’ve already navigated that other minefield of summer, recognising the new players.

This year has been different to others. The money that is now flooding the top end of the game in England is filtering down even as far as National South level, as are players who think they can get a bigger piece of the pie.

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You can’t blame them for that but for clubs like Saints who run with a small and limited budget it makes shopping all the more fraught with pitfalls.

To combat that trialists have been more numerous but Ian Allinson has managed to secure a few of them, and as he usually does, he seems to have unearthed a couple of gems.

The main one to have caught the eye is Ralston Gabriel, a striker who bagged 32 goals in Haringey Borough’s successful promotion season.

He made me take a step back when I caught up with him after the London Colney game, thanks to his give me the ball and I will score line.

But his performances show a man with the upmost confidence in his own ability and with a quickness and desire to hassle defenders into mistakes, you can see he’ll be a threat.

Others like David Moyo and Khale Da Costa have shown glimpses of what they can do while Dave Diedhiou will be a man-mountain in the back four or deep midfield, something which I think was needed.

We all know Saints need to improve defensively from last year but it was interesting to see the side trial a back three.

Long before Mr Southgate made it hip, I’ve often believed it could be a formation that would work for City.

Now they have practiced it I’m convinced it could help. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the answer to all defensive problems, but it allows two up front and did seem to add a bit of steel to the team.

But that’s the joy of pre-season, everything you watch has that rosy glow and nothing has dented that glorious optimism.

We all know what usually happens next, that’s the real fun of football if we’re honest, but I’ll be sad to see the summer months disappear into the rear-view mirror.

See you next year pre-season, love ya.