Manager Simon Grayson spoke to the media for the first time since the victory over Aston Villa and admitted that the break had been a useful one for his team.
“If we’d had our run of form at the beginning of the month, we would have wanted another game to try and keep it going,” said the gaffer after his side won four and drew one of their last six before the international period. “However, having had such a busy schedule, with a few injuries here and there, you do need to recharge your batteries.
“Any club will say the same, that with so many games, so close together, you can’t keep doing the same things over and over again week in, week out with the intensity that you want to play at and you want to ensure that you don’t get any more unforced injuries.
“We have worked them hard, as well as giving them a few days here and there and obviously it has given us time on the training ground to sort out a few things, here and there. Overall, it has been a welcome break for us.
“The bounce games have been good for us. The game against Burnley was a really high intensity game. They had Gray, Bamford, Kightly, Tarkowski, Flanagan and Darikwa amongst their team and we had all those players who have not been playing, so it was a really competitive game.
“It is important to keep the fitness levels up of those who are not in the team. We have done that all season – DJ and Ben Pearson are good examples of those who have had to play a few bounce games, but when they have come into the team their fitness has been there and they have settled straight back in and contributed to some good performances.
“All the players have to be ready for selection and when they come in, they have to take it, as previous players have done.”
As mentioned, the next five games – including the double-header against Newcastle – are all against the Championship’s early pace-setters, starting at the AMEX Stadium this weekend, but the manager is not concerned by the tough run of fixtures.
“You have to play everybody some time, so it might as well be in October and get it out of the way!” Continued the PNE boss.
“When the fixtures came out in June, we looked at this run of games and saw Brighton, Norwich and Newcastle and expected them to be in the top six, if not higher. Huddersfield have been a surprise package to some, but seeing how well they played last year, what they have done so far is no surprise as well.
“We will embrace these games. We always seem to play well against the top teams. They will be very different types of games, but we did well against the top teams last year and we have to keep on improving in what we are doing.
“We should keep our confidence and belief in what we have done in the last few games and go and enjoy these experiences and big crowds against big teams – that’s why we are in the Championship.
“There are no easy games, whether you are playing someone in the top four or the bottom four, because of the competitiveness of this division.”
The last four games against the Seagulls have all ended goalless, so can we rule out a multi-goal thriller this weekend?
“I’ll take 0-0 now!” Jokes Simon. “They have been knocking on the door of getting out of this division for the past few years.
“Chris is a fantastic bloke and a fantastic manager and we know what to expect from his team. They have gone to the next level in terms of their recruitment this summer with the likes of Glenn Murray and Oliver Norwood, who I know from his time at Huddersfield, Sidwell on a permanent basis and Duffy from Blackburn. They have recruited to go one step forward and we know we are in for a tough game.
“They are one of the best teams in the division and we have to be on our ‘A’ game. We were last season, both home and away, and hopefully that is the case again this year.”