Gary Rowett has reflected on a useful week of training at Calmont Road, ahead of Millwall’s visit to the Madejski Stadium to take on Reading this Saturday afternoon in the Sky Bet Championship.
The manager looks ahead to his first away game in charge, following last weekend’s 2-0 victory at The Den against Stoke City.
“It’s been a productive week, and we’ve been able to get some good ideas into the squad so we have options of different ways of playing,” Rowett says.
“We are also looking to build on what we did on Saturday because that’s important after a good performance. The challenge is to improve some of those elements both in and out of possession, because there are plenty of positives to build on.
“It’s always nice to get a bit of breathing space when you’re at a new club and meeting so many people with so much going on, getting to know how the club works. It’s good having that week out on the training pitch, and the players have worked hard, I have to say – they have an amazing appetite to work, to listen and to take on board new ideas.”
Rowett elaborates on what has been worked on throughout the past few days, and says it is important that the squad are prepared to both use and come up against new tactical systems on the pitch.
“The win last weekend certainly generates confidence, as well as excitement for the next few games. We know how difficult this division is, and I think Reading have many similarities to Stoke as an opponent in that they aren’t quite achieving what might be expected of them with some of the players they have. Again, it’s a good challenge for us, and it will be really interesting to see how we fare.
“We’ve looked at how we played last Saturday and where we will need to improve when we are away from home, just in terms of that control element when we’re on the ball, and to try not to be sucked in too deep in the second half. But, of course, teams will have spells against you at times and it’s up to how you respond.
“We’ve also looked at ways in which we can change our system if required. Whether we start on Saturday with the same system as last week or a new system, it’s about the attitude of the players which has to be the same as it is in front of our own crowd. We have to try and play with the same tempo and ambition as we do at home, which takes a different mentality when the opponents come out strong as the home side. We have to be more flexible in how we do things, and we’ll look to have different options available to us on Saturday.”
The boss says Mark Bowen’s Reading are not a side to be underestimated, and that The Royals possess a wide array of talent which will require a solid display from his team.
“Reading have spent considerable amounts of money over the past few years, and I’m perhaps a bit surprised to see them where they are – I’m sure they’ll pick up under their new management.
“Their results haven’t been as good as they will have liked for periods of time this season, but I know they certainly have some talented players including my old Birmingham captain Michael Morrison at the heart of their defence. Ovie Ejaria is a great player on his day, and they also have a threatening front line.
“They’ve recently been playing a slightly different system, but of course these are just the details you have to be aware of. If we turn up and face a team and they’ve changed their shape, then the work you’ve done can be pointless – so it’s important we’re fully prepared as well as respectful towards a good side.”
Rowett finally gives an update on the health bill of his squad, with the good news that Jiri Skalak is nearing a return to full fitness.
“We’re as we were in terms of fitness. We got through the Under 23 game which Jiri came through well – I’m not sure if he’s at the level of match sharpness we’d need him at for this weekend, but he’s certainly an option and he’ll travel with the group.
“Other than that, we have the same group of 20 we had available for last Saturday, which is great. We do have a small squad and have to wrap players in cotton wool a bit, but we’ve got through the week well and we’ll see which side we pick.”