At first glance it seems an unnecessary addition to Sheffield United’s pre-season fixture programme, writes James Shield.
But officials at Bramall Lane last night insisted that July 26th’s friendly with Atromitos FC, which takes place less than 24 hours before David Weir’s side visit York City, actually forms an integral part of the new manager’s preparations for the forthcoming League One campaign.
“We wanted to try and play at our own ground at least once before competition proper resumes,” a source told The Star after the date was unveiled. “The idea being that the summer signings will then be comfortable and used to their surroundings when Notts County come here next month.
“It’s all about getting into a routine and trying to cover every base possible. We don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”
Atromitos, who finished third in the Greek Superleague last term, are scheduled to enter UEFA Europa League qualifying later this summer. They were narrowly beaten at the same stage of the competition by Newcastle United eleven months ago.
With Weir conscious of the need not to overburden his squad, it raises the possibility that the former Scotland international might not publicly field his first choice starting eleven until the contest with County on August 2.
The South Yorkshire club, who have yet to lose under Weir’s stewardship, face Mansfield Town this weekend.
Julian Winter, United’s chief executive, said: “David Weir wanted a friendly to acclimatise the new players. This date was the only one available and we are aware that it is a day before York friendly but it is all part of David’s preparations.
“Due to policing and availability of opposition, it was the only day available and David will use the fixture to replicate the conditions of exactly a week later when the season starts.”
Meanwhile, United’s trip to Coventry City now takes place on October 13 after being selected for live television broadcast.