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Bowen on stretching squad to its fullest as Derby kicks off festive fixtures

Manager on keeping team fresh, Derby test and Christmas period

19 December 2019

“We’ve had a decent week to prepare, and we’re in a good place,” said boss Mark Bowen ahead of Derby’s visit to Madejski Stadium.

“And a little bit of good news is that I hope John Swift will be available. It’s about how much we use him and to what effect, because after that we’ve got four games in ten days.

“They come thick and fast. At this period of the year, you plan for each game and you’ve got one eye on the rest of the squad and their fitness and availability – how close they are to performing at 100 per cent if they get the opportunity.

“It’s a squad game, and I’m sure that the squad will be used and stretched to the full extent over the coming two weeks.

“You spend all of your time playing games, and then recovering. Because players don’t want to lose their place in the team, they end up playing with little bumps and knocks. But it’s up to me and my medical staff to be on top of that situation.

“As a coach, you don’t get a lot of time to work with your team on the training ground. It’s play the game, recover, dust yourself down and go again on the next one.”

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We welcome a Derby outfit which is winless in the last five – a chance to go level on points with the Rams.

“Their form has not been great, especially away from home, so we need to play on that and take the game to them,” Bowen continued.

“We might play at a higher tempo than we played at Stoke last week, but also make sure we’re really solid because you don’t want to give them any invites for their confidence to grow.”

This Saturday will bring up the midpoint of the season for most clubs – though the Royals still have a game in hand – and the manager is keen to kick on in the second half of the campaign.

“I’ll never apologise for being a glass-half-full man,” he said. “After my first four or five games, I was asking if we could push towards the top half of the table and maybe even the play-offs. I think the fans want to hear that, and that’s the way I feel. So you put demands on your team to do that.

“But the nature of the beast is that you go through periods where important players are injured, and where players have a bit of a lack of form.

“I don’t see us being in a bad place, in terms of our confidence. We had two difficult games against Birmingham and Barnsley, but in terms of our game-plan and what we expected, we came out of what could have been a difficult game against Stoke with a solid away point. And who knows, at the end of the season it could be a telling point.”

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