MARK HUGHES declared himself happy with what he had seen after taking charge of his first training session as Stoke City manager.
The Potters’ first team squad reported back to Clayton Wood for the start of pre-season this morning and to meet Hughes, his assistant Mark Bowen and first team coach Eddie Niedzwiecki.
The five-week build-up to the 2013-14 Premier League season got underway in sweltering temperatures.
The squad will tomorrow undergo fitness screening tests at St. George’s Park, the Football Association’s National Training Centre near Burton-Upon-Trent, before flying to France on Wednesday for a five-day stay at a training camp.
Hughes told www.stokecityfc.com: “They all look in good nick and I’m pleased with their application. They seem like a good group; they want to work hard in training and I’m really pleased with what I’ve seen so far. First impressions have been good.
“I’m sure as the weeks develop, I’ll get a better insight into everyone’s ability and take it from there.
“But first and foremost, I’ve been really pleased with the attitude and application – I think that’s really important because if you’ve got a good group you can put things to them and try and work with them.
“It has all been very positive so far. We’ve got a day of testing tomorrow and then we’re off to France for four or five days, which will help myself and the staff get to know the players and them to get to know us.”
Hughes and his staff put the players through their paces with a 90-minute session that included ball work.
He added: “I’m an advocate of getting the footballs out in pre-season straight away. I think it’s important that players get plenty of touches of the ball and remind themselves that they are football players.
“I always used to feel that was important to me when I was a player.
“Footballers are very fit these days. It’s not like the old days when I was playing where you would take a complete break for six or seven weeks and then come back and try and get fit.
“These guys are athletes – they just need topping up. They need sessions within a group having followed individual fitness plans during the close season.”