INTERVIEW: Lee Sanders reflects on season start, London City and increased training provision

Lee Sanders has hailed an excellent second half performance from his side at London City Lionesses – but insists there is no time to dwell on past successes.

The Wildcats have won all five of their games so far in the 2019/20 season, with the 6-0 win against the Lionesses crowning a solid start to the campaign.

And Sanders admits he and all the club’s other staff were delighted with the performance, which he feels shows his side as more than just a physical presence – as they are often labelled.

“I think we’ve got every reason to be really happy with the result,” he said.

“The previous four games, we were happy with the points but the performance was maybe left wanting a little bit.

“I think the first half performance at London City was pretty even – they knocked the ball about well and gave us some problems but we stood up and defended well and dealt with those problems.

“In the second half, we came out and played some very good football and scored some very good goals.

“That’s what myself, Steph and the coaching staff have been wanting and demanding from the players.

“We’ve said to them time and again this season – and we’ll keep hammering it – that we can be physical, we are certainly fit, can grind out results and be a challenge for any team in either this league or the Super League – but ultimately we want them to be better footballers.

“I think the second half at London City we saw what they’re capable of and that’s really pleasing.”

Durham’s start to the season is made even more remarkable given their current injury woes – with four senior players sidelined.

But the promise of the key quartet returning – plus the strength of the remaining squad – leaves Sanders enthused.

“Sometimes you sit and think ‘do we need to go out and get another player, or another two players?,” he admitted.

“But I think we’ve always looked and despite some of the the injuries coming at a difficult time [pre-season] you just have to look at the quality of player we’ll have back come the New Year.

“For me, that’s what it came down to.

“I think we’ve got a good, strong squad of players now. Everybody is getting a go and performing well.

“We’re getting points, scoring goals and keeping clean sheets – so I think the girls who are in the squad at the minute deserve to be here and playing.

“I don’t think we’ll be looking for much more – but we are really looking forward to those injured players coming back.”

An eye-catching start to the season – which has seen highly-fancied Aston Villa and London City both beaten – isn’t lost on Sanders.

But he still believes the battle for promotion will be a fierce one this term.

“We can’t be anything but pleased with it,” said Sanders.

“But at the same time, those five games are gone. Blackburn is our most important focus for the next week because you’ve got to look at the teams around us.

“London City, they’ve competed¬†with some good sides and are apparently a full-time outfit, Sheffield United and Aston Villa have to be favourites as you’re looking at almost full-time programmes with those two clubs backed by Premier League’s men sides.

“I’m sure they would be disappointed with anything less and they’ve put themselves up there to be the ones that are promoted this season.

“But we should look to be there or thereabouts and competing with them most definitely and having a say.

“I’m sure my players are capable of that.”

Durham’s fine start comes after a summer which saw them make some major changes to the club’s training schedule – with the Wildcats having increased the number of training sessions and tweaked the timings of them.

This, says Sanders, has made a big impact.

“It’s something we looked at last season when promotion was a possibility.

“We sat down, thought long and hard, had conversations with individual players and put together a plan.

“The players have had to make some adjustments, and they’ve been brilliant with that, but training during the day and training more days has had big benefits.

“The staff also have bought into it and as well as the coaching staff, the performance staff – Tom and Simon – and Natalie our club physio have been absolutely tremendous with the new schedule and have more time to take care of the player’s preparation and needs.

“The players have their lives back on an evening and are getting in a lot earlier than they’ve historically been used to.

“I think it’s just been all-round better.”

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