So that was it, folks, that was pre-season.
Did it seem to go in quickly, or has this dragged like Hell? To me, it’s gone in the blink of an eye and that’s good because I thought it was going to be long and drawn on and draggy. It has done everything but.
So we’re ready for combat to resume. But how ready? Well, we’re more ready than last season. In fact, I think we’re more ready for a season than I’ve ever seen us. The bulk of the transfer business is done, early, and we’ve tweaked rather than rebuilt.
Today what most people hoped for was a good defensive display, and we got it. The new boy looked solid and composed. Our left back showed us that steady improvement we’ve had from him game after game. But one man stole the show today from the signings, and he was head and shoulders above every footballer on the park.
Reo Hatate was exceptional. I have long harboured the suspicion that he could be player of the year and I’ve said so on this site.
Talking last night on the Endless Celts show about the way I’ve felt all the way through pre-season – that I’ve never been able to pick a possible player of the year without changing my mind a million times – I did hover on the idea of Hatate … because I’m genuinely convinced that even with Kyogo, Abada and Jota in the team he’s our best technical footballer.
We are lucky to have so many of them, of course, and it’s going to be the difference when this season starts. But Hatate, to me, stands out because he can do things that no-one else in the team can, or would think to do.
He showed that today in flashes.
When the whistle blew and the man of the match was announced nobody was in the slightest doubt who it was going to be. He has been one of the standouts through this whole phase of preparation, and although he’s not alone in shining he has burned brightest.
Here’s a strange stat. Kyogo has two, Maeda has two and Giakoumakis has one. Hatate has two, O’Riley has two.
But our top scorer in this pre-season is a guy who has largely gone unsung; David Turnbull.
He has a big part to play in the season ahead and he got his third today.
When a player such as this has been doing his thing without much hype, you know this as strong as squad as we’ve had going into the season for many, many years.