Latics prepare for the final game of their US tour tonight, taking on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at the Highmark Stadium and whilst Stephen Crainey expects another tough fitness test for the team, the defender is confident the game will serve them well upon their return to the UK.
Latics have so far overcome Columbus Crew and Dayton Dutch Lions comfortably during their pre-season tour of the States, playing and training in humid conditions throughout their stay, something Crainey admitted was difficult but beneficial in the long run, saying:
“The heat has been tough to play in, particularly when you’re training and playing to a high intensity.
“In those conditions it can be tough to get yourself going, but hopefully it will serve us well for when we’re back in the UK and we’ve got that fitness in the bank.
“We take on Pittsburgh tonight, and so far the setting for training has been spectacular but the warm conditions have made it tough. I’m sure the match is going to be just as intense so we’ll have to be ready for that but I’m sure the game will give us another lift for when we return home.
“We’ve got three games in the space of a week when we get back which will not only give us an indication of what to expect at times during the season, but will also tell us how far we’ve come in our pre-season training and maybe what’s still to be done.”
With eight new signings arriving before the Latics set off for the States, the tour was seen as the ideal settling in period for fresh faces, and Crainey confirmed that he and the other new boys at the club have taken no time at all in feeling a part of the team:
“The mood out here has been brilliant, everyone’s really bonded and there’s such a great atmosphere whenever we go to work; we’re really close as a group.
“I’ve loved all the work we’ve been doing and the boys have made me feel very welcome at a new club. The same can be said for the other new boys who have come in, we’ve all settled from the off and that can only bode well for the new season.”
The big kick off against Barnsley at Oakwell is just two weeks away, and as a player who has plenty of experience of life in the Championship, Crainey knows the going will be tough for Latics after coming out of the top flight, but believes the squad has the mental strength to cope with the demands of the campaign:
“I think we’re going to be a big scalp for teams this season, coming down from the Premier League but looking a really strong squad. That’s something we’re going to have to deal with through performances on the pitch and our mentality going into the games.
“I don’t think it’ll be a problem because we’ve got some great lads and some real characters in the dressing room who are all biting at the chance to get this season underway and make a good start against Barnsley.”