With the opening game of the 2023 First Division season away to Treaty United less than four weeks away, new Bray Wanderers Head Coach Ian Ryan has been quietly working behind the scenes ahead of the new campaign.
No less than 18 players (including Academy players) saw action in the opening pre-season fixture against Shamrock Rovers on Saturday as the club’s preparations continue towards the away trip to Limerick in February.
And the 35-year-old is hoping to build on the positivity – both on and off the pitch – since his appointment last November.
“It has been really good. Really enjoyable. There’s a good atmosphere around the place. It is a new, exciting group of players. The staff are gelling together. So, it’s really an exciting time”, he beamed.
Speaking for the first time since arriving at the Carlisle Grounds, Ryan reflected on the first few weeks of pre-season.
“It has been really good. Personally, I do not enjoy going out and signing players. But that’s part of the course. I just love when the football starts. We had a really busy November and December doing all them bits. Now, it’s good to be on the pitch and doing the football. Off we go.”
He continued “Pre-season is about fitness and forming a playing shape. We have had two really good weeks so far. They have really been intensive. It’s about me putting a stamp on things. We saw some that against Rovers. I thought it was really good in parts. What we’ve focused on in recent weeks is the defensive shape and how we press. It was really good at times against the best team in the country. From that aspect, it’s been really pleasing.”
Another objective from pre-season is about fitness and sharness. But also, the players bonding as a group – something Ryan feels is important for the club.
“I go back to my first comments. There is a great little atmosphere in the club. It is good at the moment. The boys are getting to know each other; and will get to know each other more in the next couple of weeks. As a club, and overall, there’s a great atmosphere around the place. We mix in with the Academy players. They come on after us during the week up in Enniskerry. Everything is good at the minute.”
While new faces have come in on the pitch, there is also new personnel off the pitch.
“Lorcan Fitzgerald has come in as Assistant Head Coach” revealed Ryan. “Paul Heffernan is still there (as First Team Coach). Stephen McGuinness is going to act as Player/Goalkeeping coach. So, there is a good mix there.”
He continued “From a staff point of view, I think it’s important – just the way I like to do it – we’re all young; starting our careers in management and coaching. We want to be hungry; want to be ambitious. And to make Bray the club it could be – and will be.”
Ryan went on the say “The same goes for the players. Anybody who comes through the door needs to show hunger and desire to fight for what Bray means. To make sure we compete at the top end.”
With 15 new arrivals over the past three months, the 2023 first team squad is taking shape.
“We’re nearly there – squad wise. How I operate is small numbers. Small numbers is for reasons like to make sure everybody is important; everybody is involved. Everybody in the squad will play a part throughout the season. Then on bigger picture, it is also important – again one of my own beliefs – is to give young people a chance. If we pick up a couple of injuries through the year, which we will by nature, that’s the opportunity for the younger lads to come up and showcase what they are about.”
With a competitive First Division consisting of ten teams in the 2023 season, the new Head coach is looking to hit the ground running at the Markets Field.
“Momentum is a big thing. We’ll look to do it. That’s a game or two. The season is 36 games long. We will look to get into our rhythm as quickly as we can. But we’ll also take each game as it is. Make no mistake – we’ve got our eyes on the prize of Treaty in a couple of weeks time. We’ll be out with the guns. Hopefully we start well.”