Jacob Pepper on a positive pre-season camp, a winning mentality, and why a visit to the Big Banana is in jeopardy.Versatile midfielder Jacob Pepper has hailed his new teammates and Tony Popovic for an easy transition into life as a Wanderer.
Pepper, 23, who signed on from the Newcastle Jets last month, says pre-season camp at Coffs Harbour will leave the Wanderers squad in good shape for the upcoming season.
"The general vibe here is really good," he said.
"All the boys have welcomed most of the new boys in. The transition has been really easy and the general feeling around camp has been really busy.”
It may only carry the significance of a pre-season friendly, yet Pepper and the team are approaching Friday's game against the Central Coast Mariners with an air of hunger akin to a competitive fixture.
"Pre-season games are about fitness and getting to play 90 minutes, but we've sat down and had a few meetings with the boss, and no doubt about it come Friday we're going to win. Everyone wants to win and that's the kind of winning mentality we've got to have and take into the season."
There's no surprises as to the source of this 'winning mentality'.
Pepper says that working under Tony Popovic has been a sea change in comparison to previous managers.
"It's been really good mentally. It's really different from the past where managers have been 'Oh, we want to make the top six' - whereas here, we want to win, we want to come first, and that's definitely a positive thing and makes us better on a day to day basis."
Whilst the Novocastrian was coy on the boss’s plans for him, Pepper said he aims to secure a starting position before the end of the year.
“Ultimately I’d like to play midfield but in my case I can drop back into right and left back roles which is a positive for the team.”
Pepper reveals that pre-season camp has been rigorous work – in fact, the players face such a full schedule that a potential trip to the Big Banana is in doubt.
“I think it might have to wait this time,” he said.
Despite this crushing blow, the players have managed to share some crucial bonding sessions together - not least at the new players’ initiation ceremony.
After dinner on Monday night, three new players, including Pepper, Italian marquee Federico Piovacarri and experienced Spanish midfielder Andreu were made to get up and sing a song of their choice.
"I chose Nelly Furtado's 'I’m Like a Bird'.
"Andreu and Piovacarri got up as well. (I think) Federico went for the Italian national anthem - and Andreu sung something in Spanish."
Whilst the award for best singer in the team is still up for contention, the title of the funniest man on camp is undisputed, according to Pepper.
"Mark Bridge loves to stir the pot, and is always in line for a joke," he said.
Pepper said, however, that it was too early in the season to reveal which player has the best banter.
Tickets to the match against Central Coast Mariners this Friday at C.ex Coffs International Stadium are available here.