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Gillingham players set to start their pre-season training in a fortnight ahead of friendly matches against Millwall and Watford

Gillingham’s players have two more weeks off before the hard work starts.

Boss Mark Bonner has resisted the temptation to call the players back before July 1 and feels six weeks is ample time to get them prepared.

Gillingham manager Mark Bonner believes six weeks is plenty for pre-season Picture: Keith Heppell
Gillingham manager Mark Bonner believes six weeks is plenty for pre-season Picture: Keith Heppell

The Gills ended their 2023/24 season at home to Doncaster Rovers on April 27 and so the players have already had seven weeks off to recover, with two more to go.

Bonner is glad to have a more traditional summer break, however, saying: “Monday, July 1 is the first day back. It is a real clean cut.

“July 1 always used to be the start of pre-season, years ago, and then because of Covid start dates and end dates and the Euros and because of the Qatar World Cup, football seasons have been all over the place recently.

“This is the first year we start on August 10, not like July 30 or the Carabao Cup before that being the first game. We are in a normal season again, which is brilliant.

“We have six weeks to prepare ourselves for the season and we start with a couple of tough games here.”

The Gills will play Championship sides Millwall (July 13) and Watford (July 20) before away games against Dartford, Southend and Woking in preparation for the season kicking off on Saturday, August 10.

Looking ahead to those first two friendly matches, Bonner said: “When you play good teams early on in front of crowds everyone will judge us after working together for (two weeks) but that’s fine.

“During the six weeks of pre-season I can see the players, build up relationships, get (them) fit, get organised.

“I have seen teams have good pre-seasons and start badly and bad pre-seasons and start well. I don’t think there is a formula in terms of results, there is just a process.

“‘Have you got players starting to work towards what you want them to do and are you ready?’ Knowing that actually on week one of the season you won’t be at your best either. You shouldn't be.

“You should keep growing and getting fitter and stronger and better throughout the season if your work’s good, that’s what we will try and build.

“It will be tough, it will be intense, it will be hard, that is what people expect off the back of the longest off season for quite a while.

“Nine weeks is quite a while for players. You are torn. Do we bring them in a week earlier to counter the fact it’s a long one? Within four weeks of pre-season people get bored and say let’s start the real thing.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than seven weeks of pre-season. You can do too much and people are a little bored of it by the time the season starts.

“My experience is that there is usually a bad week where you have a bad game, training is not so good, really it is physically and mentally draining and there’s a little bit of ‘can we just start playing properly now?!’

“There is fatigue and boredom but those are the lovely challenges we have to face in pre-season.

“Hopefully the sun will be shining and we will have a good team that enjoy getting to work and then when the season starts, on August 10, hopefully we will be good.”

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