Bristol Rovers look for a winning frame of mind
Mark McGhee believes that installing the right mentality into his players over the six weeks of pre-season will be vital to Bristol Rovers' hopes of making a sustained promotion challenge.
McGhee oversaw the first day of pre-season training last week as the players stretched their legs following a nine-week summer break.
He is understood to be a notorious stickler for hard physical graft during the pre-season period, but insists that preparing the players to meet what will be raised expectations following their promising end to the last campaign will be just as important.
"The physical part of it takes care of itself," said McGhee. "It's then up to us as a management team to have a clear picture of how we want the team to play and how we are going to get that message across during the next six weeks or so.
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"It will be hard work (physically), but I want to try and make pre-season feel just like any other part of the season.
"I don't want it to be a block of time where all the players are thinking about is the physical aspect of training.
"We have to get ourselves up to real match pace, but we won't do that by running the players around Bristol or up and down hills for three days.
"The training will be intense, but will be done with a lot of science behind it."
Rovers enjoyed a promising campaign under former manager Paul Buckle last summer only to struggle to cope with the pressure of being among the favourites to challenge for promotion once the League Two campaign finally got under way.
A difficult start to the season was quickly followed by a plea from Buckle for supporters to lower their expectations – before his time at the helm was brought to an end at Christmas after only six months in charge.
"It is very important to use the pre-season period to foster a particularly type of mentality ahead of what will be a long campaign," said McGhee.
"Expectations have been raised somewhat and people are optimistic about the new season, which I think they have every reason to be based on the finish the boys made to the last campaign.
"It's important that we are ready to get back on that track immediately. It is very important for (assistant manager) Shaun (North) and I to be very clear about what we want from the players. There can be no ambiguity in the message we need to get across."
Wayne Brown, meanwhile, is hoping to stake a claim to play in a central midfield role after agreeing a six-month deal, allowing him an opportunity to prove he has a longer-term future at the club.
The former Fulham man spent most of last season sidelined with an ankle injury and was only able to feature in three games after McGhee took over in January.
He was mostly deployed off the bench in a wide-midfield role and he admitted: "It has been tough. I'll play wherever I'm asked to and will do my best to do a job, but I'd like to play through the middle.
"That's my preferred position, so I'm hoping that I get a chance to impress there during pre-season. I'm raring to go and looking forward to the challenge. I managed to play a part in three of the last four league games so I was a bit disappointed that the season ended when it did.
"There is a lot of optimism around the place. I think we started a bit of a revival under Mark McGhee at the end of last season. With plans for a new stadium in a couple of years, Bristol Rovers is an exciting place to be at the moment."