Barnsley boss Lee Johnson has declared there is much more to pre-season friendlies than just winning, as his side prepare to take on Stalybridge Celtic at 3pm today.
Ten weeks on from the 5-0 drubbing of Rochdale on the last day of the season, the Reds are back in action as they step up their preparations for the upcoming League One campaign.
And they are likely to be joined by new signing Conor Wilkinson, whose loan deal from Bolton Wanderers was finally agreed yesterday.
Johnson admits his mindset towards pre-season matches has changed considerably throughout his playing and coaching career.
Speaking exclusively to The Star, he said: “I used to really want to win every single pre-season game like it was a cup final, but now it’s not about that for me, it’s about integrating the little tactical elements of the team building process.
“I just want to see that the boys are moving well and that they’re fit.
“We’ve actually done quite a lot of tactical stuff as well within our fitness so I want to see that they’re taking that in.
“We’ll have little themes within each game and they players will be judged by me on whether or not they produce those themes and get the result.”
Johnson currently has quite a small squad at his disposal, with a number of its members having made the step up from the club’s academy last season.
But he is keen to have a look at as many options as he can, indicating that most of the squad will get a run-out against their National League North opponents.
“I’ll certainly be taking 22, and ideally I’d like to play two sets of 11 in different halves but I’m not sure whether we’ll be able to do that due to numbers.
“We’ll suss it out and I think I might be able to get 60 minutes out of the first team group - or top 11 if you like - and if the sports scientists and physios feel that’s right then we will.”
The manager will also be keeping a keen eye on the development of new partnerships within his side, as the new recruits get their first chance to impress.
Barnsley-born Marc Roberts and rising star Alfie Mawson could feature at the heart of the defence, with fellow new signing Marley Watkins able to play in a number of attacking positions.
Johnson is keen to stress that he will remain open-minded as he continues to piece together his strongest line-up.
“I’m not one that goes on reputation or wages or anything like that,” he added. “I’ll play whoever I think is the best partnership to win the game.
“They’ve all done really well in the pre-season so far. We’ve got to get the right blend.
“It’s a learning process for me, not only with the new players but with some of the old players – whether or not they can adapt to what I want and play in the style that I want.”