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James Crawley

James Crawley writes

Posted Saturday, September 12th 2020

Holden’s emotions ahead of Championship opener

Dean Holden is about to embark on his first Sky Bet Championship match as Bristol City’s permanent head coach.

It’s a proud milestone for the Mancunian, who prepares his Robins side to tackle newly promoted Coventry City.

Holden oversaw a Carabao Cup Round One win over Exeter City last weekend, his first match in charge, and now he aims to follow that up with the first available three points.

Speaking ahead of the Coventry City contest, Holden said he felt “excited” and “ready” after “a really good pre-season”.

“I’m pleased with our incomings, there’s a nice spirit building as well and the standard in training this week has been high. The new guys want to show how good they are and the guys already in the building want to show they’ve got a bit as well. Training has been good, I feel relaxed and ready for tomorrow. I can’t wait for the first game!

New signings

Holden has welcomed five signings in the current transfer window: Joe Williams (Wigan Athletic), Chris Martin (free), Chris Brunt (free), Alfie Mawson (loan, Fulham) and Steven Sessegnon (loan, Fulham) and he’s delighted with his acquisitions.

The likes of Williams and Martin have had slightly longer to settle but Holden has no issues with how each of the new faces have adjusted to their new surroundings.

“Brunty is coming towards the end of his career now but he’s buzzing to be involved in a big club in the Championship, where he feels there is a real chance of promotion this season,” Holden said.

“We made sure we got those first-day nerves out of the door really quickly with a couple of fun games in the warm-ups, just to get them used to the group. We’re trying to build spirit, which is difficult due to Covid-19 because the players can’t socialise together, so we’ve got to find different ways in training to build that spirit, which will stand us in good stead as the season goes on.”

Tough selection

Their arrivals mean more competition for places but that can only help to bring the best out of the players, who are fighting for a spot in the matchday squad.

“It’s a great headache to have,” Holden admitted. “We’ll look at who is available because some of the new boys won’t be as fit as others. Brunt and Martin haven’t had a club, even the two Fulham lads in Alfie and Sess haven’t had much training or game time. We want to win the first game, we want to hit the ground running this season but at the same time we have to be smart and judge the players individually.

Assessment of the squad

But with the transfer window extending into October, there is still the opportunity for players to develop and earn game time elsewhere, as Holden assesses what may be best for some individuals.

“In terms of incomings, if the window closed now, I would be delighted. We still need to trim the squad and I’ve spoken to some of the players about how much game time they might get and maybe getting game time elsewhere - we saw that with Sammie Szmodics. The squad is too big, we need to trim it down if we can and we’ll have to see if we can do that during the window.”

Entertaining the fans

Holden also addressed the fans, who remain unable to attend games in stadia for now. They are missed but their support from the safety and comfort of their homes remains key to the team.

He continued: “We can’t wait to have them back at Ashton Gate, supporting the team. We can’t wait to travel on away days together.

“I’ve promised, since day one, that we will put out at a team they can relate to and be proud of. We can win every game although we might not win every game! We certainly might not play well so we will need to dig things out, even if it’s not pretty, but we aim to put in performances to make fans excited at home.

“Through the stream we still feel their support, so as I say I can’t wait for the first game tomorrow. Please keep supporting the boys because we really feel it."

Watch the full interview: Dean Holden pre-Coventry City (H)

 

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