Mark Gillespie on being ready for next season
Keeper Mark Gillespie, who missed six months of last season with a knee injury picked up in the first round FA Cup trip to Boreham Wood, received a personal boost when he made a return to the bench following what had been a long and frustrating road back to full recovery for the final-day trip to Molineux.
We spoke to him about his long overdue return to the fold last week.
"It was good to be involved in the squad again on the last day of the season," he confirmed. "Obviously I'd been out for six months, so to get back on the bench was a good way to end the season on a personal level.
"I'd only been training for a couple of weeks before that so it was pleasing that it was enough to get myself onto the bench. It's obviously been a disappointing season, for myself and for the team, but that was a little positive that I've been able to take into the summer."
"The last day of the season was horrible," he admitted. "I've been at the club since I was 16 and it will always be the club that gave me my chance in professional football. That makes it feel like my club, whoever else I support, so something like this is always going to hurt.
"We knew it was going to be a massive task on the last day but, when relegation was confirmed, it was a horrible feeling. I think it really started to sink in when the final whistle blew. It was an awful feeling and I never want to experience anything like that again.
"None of us are going to forget how that felt in a hurry so we need to use that emotion next season to make sure we put it right. We want to finish as high as we can in the league and hopefully we'll get promoted."
"There was a lot of emotion at Wolves and it was difficult for us to see that the fans were as upset as we were," he told us. "We see ourselves as a League One club at a minimum because we've been at that level for eight years. We've had some good seasons and beaten some really good teams, and we were close to going up at one point.
"The fans have supported us through all that and we know we've let them down. They travelled in their numbers again to Wolves and it wasn't nice to be a part of a team which has disappointed them so much."
"As I say, we're going to use the disappointment as a motivation for next season. To be honest, that's started for me already. I'm not really going to get a summer because I'm going to make sure I'm in the gym and getting myself as fit as possible so I'm ready to go as soon as we get back. I'm back to square one at the moment and I need to prove to the coaching staff that I'm ready to play from the moment we get back."
"It's obviously an interesting time because the other lads in my position have left," he admitted. "I was in the same position last season, in terms of being the only goalkeeper at the club at the start of pre-season, so it will be interesting to see who comes in.
"It's something I'm used to and I know that, whoever we sign, he'll be there to challenge me. I've spoken to Kav about it and I know that it isn't going to be a case of having a number one and a number two. I'm going to have to show that I deserve to start or it will go to the other keeper. I'll do what I always do and that's to work hard to make sure it's my name on the team sheet when we get to that first game."
"Six months out through injury is a long time so I do feel like I'm back to square one," he said. "It's a new season and I think it will feel like a fresh start for everybody at the club, particularly with so many changes. It will definitely feel like that for me because I've been out since that game in November.
"I want to hit the ground running for the start of the season. It's going to be interesting to see who comes in because there are a lot of gaps to fill at the moment. Hopefully we can get some good players through the door and create a good team spirit."
"Nobody is saying next season is going to be easy but we have to believe we're capable of challenging at the right end of the table," he insisted. "If you look at the league table, I think it's only Scunthorpe who bounced back at the first time of asking this season, so we know it's going to be a tough ask. However, it has to be our aim.
"I'm just ready to get on with it. I'd be quite happy to wake up tomorrow and for it to be the first day of pre-season. I can't wait to get started again and get going. I've set myself some personal targets, as I always do, but I think the main thing is for the team to get out there and have a season we can all remember for the right reasons."