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SEEING THE BENEFITS

14 July 2016

Iron striker Tom Hopper believes the squad are already beginning to see the benefits of a tough pre-season programme this year.

Graham Alexander’s men reported back for training a couple of weeks ago after the summer break and played local side Stamford AFC in a friendly match before heading out to Austria last Saturday.

Speaking from the team’s base, Hopper said: “It’s been a tough week but it’s what we expect coming to places like this.

“The facilities are great. It’s set up for hard work and we’re certainly making the most of that with our early morning starts, getting our runs done.

“We’ve had some tough, intense training sessions so everyone is going to get the benefit from it.

“It’s always key in pre-season to get the volume of work in – you need it to set you up for a good year and to help you stay injury free.

“The games can’t come quick enough for all of us. We certainly feel we’re ready to get cracking into matches again.”

United scheduled in two further friendly fixtures prior to their visit to Central Europe, the first of which against Gschwandt was called off due to rain.

Kyle Wootton’s strike gave the Iron an early lead before the wet weather halted proceedings but Hopper felt just as much was gained from an eleven-a-side training game the following day.

“We had a bit of a taster against Stamford and then we were unlucky with the game here being called off,” he continued.

“It ruined a few plans in terms of minutes so basically we replicated that in training with an 11v11 which was played at serious intensity.

“That was the equivalent of the abandoned game so everyone was pleased with that.

“I think it’s (bonding as a team) massively important in trips like this. We’re a close bunch anyway and I’ve always said that, even with the new additions.

“It’s always nice for them to become part of the group.

“Obviously you’re living within close quarters of each other so it’s great and we all have a really good laugh.”

The trip will conclude with a final outing against Austrian second division side FC Liefering, who will certainly pose a stern test for the players when they meet this Friday.

Feeder team of one of the country’s top clubs, Red Bull Salzburg, Liefering also beat Dutch giants Ajax recently so it promises to be a good runout.

Hopper added: “We’ve seen they beat Ajax the other day so it’s a good test for us.

“We like the idea of a challenge but who doesn’t?

“We’ll go there, do what we need to do, get valuable minutes and hopefully play some good football.”

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