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First XI insider: The longest pre-season in history

In the first instalment of our new series, First XI goalkeeper Oscar Murphy gives HSC an insight into the senior squad’s season preparations for the delayed start.

By Oscar Murphy

The key to success

The team has worked hard on adopting a new shape of 3-4-3 (or 5-2-3), a shape chosen to suit the players and their style of play. The formation allows a high press with fullbacks pushing forwards – and requires a high level of fitness. The tactical move has proven fruitful as the First XI has been able to dominate and control the games they have played over the last few weeks.

Whilst it is true that the shape has been one of the keys to the pre-season success, credit has to be given to the players and coaches. The players have adapted quickly and many have shown their versatility; Centre backs playing as full-backs whilst the full-backs sometimes push into a more attacking wing role. The addition of the Lower Sixth players (once Covid allowed year-groups to mix) to what was already a strong Upper Sixth side has done nothing but good for the team, providing more depth and added quality.

The pre-season matches have come thick and fast since the return and Hampton have taken to it well. Wins against Wilson’s, Ardingly, Gordon’s, Whitgift and Aldenham are evidence enough but at 2-0, 5-0, 4-0, 7-0 and 7-0 respectively, there is an added sense of increasing strength to the team. The undefeated streak and notably the streak of clean sheets have been credit to the quality and hard work shown on and off the pitch from every player. Players in all positions have been rewarded in the form of goals, most notably, Josh Culshaw (our centre back) scoring four first-half goals against Aldenham.

Looking Onwards

The Hudl League – a competition between a number of the country’s top independent footballing schools – is bearing down on the team now with the first game against Bede’s on the 3G this Saturday. This is a competition that the team most certainly will be looking to try and win, especially in the absence of other trophies. You have to imagine that the pre-season has only filled the team with confidence and with the Saturday game being potentially the last home game in a Hampton shirt, the feeling is that Hampton will get off to a strong start in the league.

Mr Burke, Director of Football, exemplifies the positive pre-season saying that he is “very pleased with how the pre-HUDL season training has gone.” He went on to say that the players’ “confidence has grown. We are looking big, fit and strong. The quality of the play has been excellent.” The praise is clear but there is a sense that this is only the beginning with more work to be done: “the key now is to focus on our game plan and be in control of our emotions during the games.”

The team are looking forward to an “exciting end to an unprecedented season” and they will be hoping to bring home something to cheer about.

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