A sense of anticipation surrounded Liam Buckley as he spoke to Extratime ahead of St Patrick’s Athletic’s opening league game against Bray Wanderers next Friday. His side have had mixed performances so far in pre-season, but overall, the season is one to relish for the Saints boss.
Having previously been at the helm of the Inchicore side, Buckley spoke of his admiration for the side and how he saw his return a big positive for himself. “I’m delighted to be back. Hopefully I can bring success back here. I enjoyed my time here before with Brian Kerr.”
With the majority of his squad being brought in from elsewhere with only five players re-signing, Buckley can certainly mould Pats into the side he wants them to be. Speaking about general fitness and the brand of football he wants his side to play, Buckley said: “I brought in 15/16 players, who are technically very good. I’m trying to get them to fit at the moment, and we will look to adapt to a passing type of football. A lot of our players are only two or three weeks into their pre-season right now, because of injuries or the time in which we signed them but our general fitness levels will improve in the next few weeks.”
A pass and move style of football is always a plus, but the pitch on the Emmet Road has had its problems in the past, and when asked if the surface could be a hindrance to the Buckley philosophy, the new Saints boss responded in a positive manner. “Anthony, the groundsman, has done a fantastic job in getting the pitch to the standard that it is. Hopefully it will be maintained throughout the season.”
Instant success cannot be expected at Richmond Park, and Buckley knows this better than anyone. “It’s a new group of players, especially a lot of young players and it’s going to take a lot of patience.”
When asked about his side’s disappointing exit from the Setanta Cup, Buckley made no excuses, and did not try to hide his disappointment. “We were disappointed. They didn’t deserve to win up there. They got a sloppy goal up there and we deserved a draw. For an hour here (in Inchicore), we were very good. We had quite a few good opportunities and if we had scored one of them, it would have been different.”
Although Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers are the favourites for the title, many believe the Saints will secure a Europa League spot once again come then end of the year, but Buckley reckons Derry City and newcomers Cork City will provide a decent challenge to their ambition, along with Shels.
“Our main competition will be Derry. They may have lost Eamon Zayed, but they brought in Paterson. I think Cork with the signings they have made, that they’ll be there or thereabouts. Shels have made some decent signings and I’m sure they will think they will be up around.”