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Nathan looks at the first few matches and gives his thoughts...

21 August 2020

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After training this lunchtime, we popped down to The Brache to get manager Nathan Jones thoughts on this morning's 2020-21 Sky Bet Championship fixture release.

Kicking off with Barnsley…

"A familiar, but tough start. They finished very well, similarly to us, and deserve their status, so I’m sure they will be stronger this year as we would hope to be. We’ve had a good competitive rivalry with them, a very healthy rivalry. I felt we were the best two teams in League One when we got promoted, and I believe they’ve been excellent since the restart. For the last nine games, they were a real difficult side to play against and it’ll be a tough start. But you have to play everyone and there’s no good time or bad time yet to play a team, because no-one knows how everyone is going to start. There are a lot of connections between the clubs and I think there’s been a similar rise. Barnsley were a bit of a yo-yo club, going up to the Championship, coming down as we got promoted to League One and then we went back up together, so because of the similarities in philosophies and stuff like that, there’s been a bit of a rivalry there, but we have to play everyone. There are no easy games because you don’t know how teams are going to come out of pre-season. There are always strange results on the opening day, anything can happen. What we have to do is make sure that we are ready."

Derby at home, then a derby…

"You look at the fixtures and there are no easy games, but these are the sides that we wanted to play. Without being disrespectful, we asked the lads when we were going into the Hull game, who do they want to play next year? Do they want to go to some of the League One grounds? Or do they want to go to the likes of Pride Park and play Derby, or Norwich at Carrow Road, and those type of places? We want these big games. This is what we’ve worked for, wherever it is. It’s a shame because in the first month when we know there definitely won’t be fans, we’ve got one of the biggest games away at Watford, and it’s sad that they can’t be there straightaway from the first game."

So, a trip to Vicarage Road third game in…

"We felt that we were going to get them in the first month because of the intense rivalry between both clubs, two real good clubs. We feared one of them would come in the no fans times. We are just glad it’s this way round, because we’d rather go to Vicarage Road with no fans and have the return fixture here at Kenilworth Road with, what we all hope by then would be a full house. So that’s one bonus to it."

Your old club Stoke visiting on October 17th

"It’s a big test, but I’m really looking forward to playing Stoke. For me there is no bitterness. There’s none of this ‘I’m desperate to beat them because of this or that’. I’ll just want to win a game of football, as I always do. I’m glad that they stayed up because it’s a good club with real good people, and for the owners and people that work there, I was delighted that they stayed up. I would have hated for any contribution that I made to be towards their demise of any kind. It’ll be a good game and I still keep in touch with some of the players and staff at the club, so I’m looking forward to the game and hopefully some of our fans will be allowed back in by the time that game comes around. I’ll look forward to going to the away fixture as well, because hopefully there can be a big, big crowd by then and I can go and see everyone, because although it was a tough time there, it’s a good, good club that I hold fondly."

On seven games in 21 days from then and nine in 28 after the second international break…

"That’s going to be the test, but in these strange times, this is the year that everybody needs to get through. Financially it will be a tough year for people in terms of revenue coming in, but also in terms of the volume and frequency of games and having to complete the league by the 8th May, so that everything else can stay on track. It’s going to be a testing year, but we’ve come through the first stage of that in terms of finishing last season, which I think was done with real integrity and everyone did the best job they possibly could. Now it’s about getting through another year and then I hope that everything goes back to our normality. It will be a tough job for everybody, and these spells are when our squad will be tested, we know that. That’s why it’s important we do the work now and keep everyone fit because we like to work with a tight squad."



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