THE 1874 COLUMN - By Matt Waters

WITH the players back in training for the upcoming campaign, I caught up with Mark Jones on Saturday to discuss how he’s preparing for his fifth season with the club.

After joining back in the 2016-17 season from Nantwich Town, Mark has become an integral part of the club on and off the field, maintaining high standards at all times and next season will be no different.

Jones, who has played 139 games for the club, told me he is motivated “more than ever” for next season.

He continued: “Last season’s null and void was a decision that hurt all of us, however we can’t dwell on that.

“We had a fantastic season last year but for me and all the lads it’s now about proving people wrong that it wasn’t a fluke and that we can do it all over again.

“We believe we can do it again and perform even better and I’m motivated more than ever to achieve that!”

As one of the older members of the squad, Mark has been crucial when it comes to setting the standard in the dressing room for the new players coming.

When speaking to him, it was clear that one of the factors for our success last season was due to everyone buying into the ethos Wayne Goodwin and Paul Bowyer have instilled.

He said: “For players coming into the club, they have to have the mindset that they will be up and at it giving it their all, and if they don’t then they might be in for a shock.

“The lads that Wayne and Paul brought in last year had such a good mentality and gelled really well with the rest of the squad. We have an excellent squad, everyone bought into their philosophy and it’s just clicked!”

With five weeks’ training now under the players’ belts, Mark told me that the new normal distancing sessions are still effective physically and mentally.

He added: “After 12 weeks or so of lockdown and not being able to see anybody, the first two sessions were maybe slightly less structured as it allowed us to catch up and have fun with the rest of the lads as we hadn’t seen each other for so long.

“It’s brilliant to be with the lads, the coaches and seeing one or two fans during the sessions and hopefully we are now on the path to normality!”

Finally, in a message for the fans, Mark wanted to thank them for their continued support.

He told me: “The fans have always been great ever since I joined.

“We had a great season in the Vase a few years ago and the fans were amazing throughout and have been ever since.

“I want to thank them for their fantastic support. We’re lucky to be the biggest supported team in the league and their support on matchdays really makes them the twelfth man.

“The passion they have for the club is unreal and we are looking forward to seeing them soon!”