'Fit and fresh' Grant ready for City challenge

Glory are set to take on Melbourne City in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the Victorian club's training complex this weekend and the game can't come soon enough for defender Alex Grant.

The 24-year-old, who is set for his fourth campaign in purple this year, is relishing the prospect of fine-tuning the plans that the squad have been working tirelessly on during what has been an intense pre-season.

"Playing against better opposition obviously challenges you more," he said.

"When we've come up against State League opposition and they've not been technically as good, we've still tried to play the way we wanted to play. 

"We disregard the opposition in some respects because our main focus is on ourselves.

"This game at the weekend will be another challenge and the boss [Tony Popovic] will want us to implement how we want to play.

"We're not going to go there and lay all our cards on the table, but we'll get out of it what he wants us to get out of it.

"City are a good team and they've signed some good players, so it's going to be a hard game and I'm really looking forward to it."

At a personal level, meanwhile, Grant feels that he couldn't be in a better spot two weeks out from the Round One clash with Western Sydney Wanderers.

"This has been the first pre-season I've had here at Glory when I've been injury-free and I've loved it," he said. "I feel fit and I feel fresh.

"I've also learned a lot. I've been playing professionally now for eight years or so, but I reckon I've learned more in these last three months than I ever have before.

"It's the little things that I wasn't even aware of. The boss and Foxey [Hayden Foxe] just make little adjustments and make us aware of things.

"The video sessions can be long at times and there are a lot of them, but you can see the bigger picture and ultimately, they'll have a positive impact when the season starts.

"We've shipped a lot of goals over the last two years and I felt that that was something which needed to be addressed and they've done that. There's been a big onus on the way we defend and what it can create further up the park.

"Popa said when he first came in that everything he does and everything we do is for a reason. His track record as a manager is proven and these are his methods, so we all respect them."

The former Stoke City man also feels that the increased fitness levels have had a knock-on effect upon his confidence and that of the rest of the squad.

"Fitness, first and foremost, has been a massive help towards making the defence more solid," he said.

"The intensity and the quality in training is really high. One of the things they've emphasised is that when you get tired in training or in games, you get sloppy. It's something in my game that I probably still need to work upon, but it's definitely improved.

"I feel more alert and I'm doing things without even having to think about them. Certain things have become second nature.  

"It's been interesting. You find out a bit more about yourself. It pushes you and tests you mentally and physically and we've really stepped it up.

"I know it's still early doors, but you can take some pride from it. It gives you that extra confidence going into the season.

"It feels as if everyone knows their roles and their jobs and if someone makes a mistake, it's not about bagging them out for it, it's about everyone getting around that person and making up for that mistake."

So is he mentally ready for the new season?

"Definitely," he said. "I feel like this year I've been given all the tools to do my job.

"It's up to me now. I don't feel pressure as such, it's more excitement. I'm just itching to get out there.

"Suddenly it's nearly here and I'm buzzing. It's now a case of just ticking those final few boxes."

Grant and co will be up against a City squad that has been significantly reshaped by Head Coach Warren Joyce since securing a third-place finish at the end of last year's regular season.

A total of eight new faces have arrived at the club, including former Glory skipper Rostyn Griffiths, Perth local Mark Birighitti, ex-Manchester United defender Ritchie De Laet and rising star Riley McGree.

At City's request, there will be no live Twitter coverage of the game, but a full match report and reaction will appear here and across our social media platforms shortly after the final whistle.

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