Pre-season moved on a long way during my playing career and has continued to change dramatically since.
Players seem to almost be handed over to the sports scientists for the fitness part now as it is viewed as such an important thing to sort out at this time of the year, and crucial for a club like Aberdeen to get right.
I used to complain to Archie Knox and Sir Alex Ferguson about running cross country and 400m, and I was ahead of my time – you never run that distance in a game and now it’s only short stuff.
The ball comes out much earlier now as well, you never used to see it for three or four days. But now players are quickly handed back to the manager to learn how to use the football.
Derek McInnes will be pleased the Dons are getting a proper block of training under their belt before the start of the European campaign against Burnley at Pittodrie – something they’ve not had in recent years. This means the players, after a proper holiday, will have been raring to get going.
The gaffer will be happy to have a bit more time to get to know his players, too, especially new faces like Chris Forrester, Stephen Gleeson, Lewis Ferguson and even fit-again Mikey Devlin, and get into his mind what his best team is before the competitive games get under way.
Last season, there were quite a lot of personnel changes from game to game, something there hadn’t been too much of the year before.
The Reds had lost Jonny Hayes and Niall McGinn – for the first half of the term – last summer and have lost players again this summer, so it’s crucial McInnes gets a look at everybody and how they play together.
During pre-season, the manager will also be busy trying to get more players in, so it could be a hectic few weeks.
Camps away from home, like Aberdeen had last week in Cork, are brilliant for the players who are already in the squad.
Some people don’t see why teams go away in the off-season and mid-season, but it gives everyone time to form bonds they can’t build in normal training, where players train and go home. You can over do it – we once went away for two weeks and it was too much!
It’s also positive the friendly against Cobh Ramblers was a 1-0 win.
However, winning at this time of year isn’t imperative, it’s about getting match fit, trying out new formations and combinations.
Hopefully as the pre-season progresses, through the next four friendlies, with Falkirk, St Johnstone, Cove Rangers and English Championship West Bromwich Albion, McInnes knows what works best to get things off to a bang against Burnley.