MITCH COOK has been running fitness boot camps to ensure Pickering Town can beat the away day blues.
The Pikes are the only Northern Counties East League premier division side not to be in action on opening day this Saturday - their first match coming at Heanor Town on Tuesday night (7.45pm).
Cook’s men have a day off because the league has 21 teams in it, but the Recreation Ground manager, having initially been disappointed not to be playing as a new term gets under way, is now starting to feel it could have a benefit.
With cricket still ruling the roost at Mill Lane, Pickering won’t play any home games at the Recreation Ground on a Saturday until their clash with Barton Town Old Boys on September 20.
Of their opening six league games, five are on the road and it is a schedule that has severely damaged Pickering’s hopes of promotion at an early stage in previous campaigns.
But the Pikes boss has turned to physical fitness instructors in a bid to ensure his men can be up-and-at-them when they start their long spell on the road.
Cook said: “Everyone wants to start on the first day of the season but it is a Saturday where we would not have played at home. Maybe it is a blessing.
“We know it is a factor and what we have done is to try to get the lads extremely fit so we can hit the ground running. In the past, if you have not been ready for the away games then the season could be over after nine games. You could be playing catch up all season and we have done that in the past.
“We have done three or four boot camp sessions with physical fitness trainers. It’s a means to an end and making sure we are fit. The other thing is that when we go to these places, their pitches will be in the best state they are going to be in and that’s a bonus for us.”
Cook has gone back to the past in order to boost the levels of experience in his outfit - bringing pack former players Joel Ramm and Wayne Aziz, while also recruiting Dean Craig and Frank Belt.
With striker Liam Salt now recovered from the knee injury that wrecked last season for him, Cook is also looking forward to unleashing the prolific striker - the club’s record scorer - on opposition defences this time around.
“He wasn’t involved in one game for me,” Cook said of the forward, who has already got back among the goals thanks to a strike in a 4-0 pre-season win over Harrogate Under-21s.
“For us it is like having a new player. He gets 25 to 30 goals a season.”
On his team’s prospects, he added: “You have to have high hopes when you start otherwise there’s no point in doing it. Our problem is the beginning of the season.
“If we can manage that and come out in a decent position we have to have high hopes. We’ve got 15 or 16 first-team players and they all want to play so it’s up to me to manage that.”
Pickering lost 3-2 to Evo-Stik League first division side Scarborough Athletic in their penultimate pre-season friendly.
They came back from a two-goal deficit in the first 25 minutes through Sam Calvert and Joe Danby. But Sam Robson added to goals from Gary Bradshaw and Sam O’Malley to win the game for Athletic. Last night (Tuesday), the Pikes were playing Whitby Town, of the Evo-Stik premier division, at home.