HELLO Reds, I hope you are well.

It’s great to be back talking to you via this column during what is a busy period for the club both on and off the pitch.

We welcomed the lads back into training on Monday for the start of pre-season where they did the traditional fitness tests and some ball work to get back into the swing of things.

The squad came back in great shape which is testament to their character and professionalism with a strong sense of a united goal for the upcoming season.

It was good to see our new coaching team out on the grass with the players, including our new goalkeeping coach, James Bittner.

‘Bitts’ comes with a good reputation within the game and has a consistent track record of developing the ‘keepers he has worked with.

Having worked with Darrell Clarke at Cheltenham Town last season, the two of them have a good working relationship and we look forward to seeing that at Oakwell.

We also added to the group this week as we brought Marc Roberts back to the club on a two-year-deal.

When we learned that Marc was available and interested in coming back, we moved swiftly and with conviction to bring his experience into the changing room – along with that of Conor Hourihane.

When I joined back in February, myself and the board spoke about areas where we might operate slightly differently, and one was whether we could add senior, experienced professionals who could maintain a high level of performance on the pitch while also providing support and guidance for our younger pros who are still growing.

We think that part of our plan is now complete with Marc’s signing.

During my time at Leicester City, I saw first-hand the impact a few older heads can have within the dressing room. First and foremost they had to still be able to contribute on the pitch, as a non-negotiable. But characters such as Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs and Jamie Vardy, who had achieved so much in the game and played at varying levels, were able to impart invaluable knowledge onto the younger members of the squad.

During tough times in the season, they were able to provide leadership through lived experience and made a difference at crucial times. Importantly, it also made the younger players more resilient and a bit more streetwise during tense or big games.

It’s always exciting to see the fixtures come out as it’s a tangible sign we’re getting closer to the crunch time and we all can’t wait to get going.

I’m sure Darrell is delighted with our opening fixture at home to Mansfield Town. Being his hometown, I imagine there will be a lot of his family here to watch his first game in charge, and I know the Reds fans will be bang up for the occasion.

However, our focus must be on providing Darrell and the staff the best possible platform to begin the season from. We are aiming to bring in a few more additions to add to the squad as well as making sure pre-season is as effective as can possibly be until we kick-off in a month’s time.

Best of luck to the Three Lions tomorrow in their game against Switzerland and I’m sure I’ll be back to talk later on down the line.