We spoke to defender Michael Raynes about a tough first few days of pre-season as things start to build up ahead of the new campaign.
“I think I’m used to it now so you just run until you can’t run any more,” he said. “It’s football, it’s the way it is and we all know we’ve just got to get on and do it.
“The important thing is getting your body ready for what is going to be a tough season and that’s why we do the hard work now. You have to show the management team you’re ready and we know it’s going to be competition for places from day one.
“Pre-season is the time when you can start to stake your claim and the games will very quickly come thick and fast. Looking at the squad this year we’re looking a lot fitter and sharper and the times we’re getting for the tests we’ve been doing have been really good.”
“On a personal level I just want to be the best I can be,” he added. “You want to achieve as much as you can and you want to do the best you can for yourself and your family and, in turn, that benefits the club.
“What’s the point of coming into pre-season and being negative? You’ve got to aim for the stars in my opinion. We have to be looking at top spot and, with the group we have here, I think we can do that.”
“I like to play my part in keeping spirits up but I don’t think it’s about being a character or anything like that,” he insisted. “It’s just about enjoying your job. Let’s be honest, we haven’t got a bad job in any way, shape or form.
“We come in every day and it’s there to be enjoyed. It isn’t going to last forever so you have to get as much out of it as you can while you’re doing it. Pre-season does get tougher the older you get but the fact is we’re here and doing this because our job requires us to be fit. It is hard but it isn’t the end of the world to have to do a bit of running.”
On the quality of the new arrivals brought in by the manager over the summer, he said: “Watching the signings come in has been a bit like playing Championship Manager. You see new faces arrive, and it’s often people you’ve played against, so you do have an idea about them, even though you don’t know them.
“It’s always nice to meet new faces and I think the people you meet is one of the best parts of this job. New signings are never a bad thing at any time. The quality of the players we’ve brought in is sending a message, in my opinion.
“They are of a very good calibre and I know they’ll fit in. An example of that is Nicky [Adams]. He is in my car school and it has to be said that we can’t shut him up. Playing wise, look at what he’s achieved over the last couple of years and it’s great to have people like that in the building.”
One of the more difficult aspects of the opening weekend for the popular centre half will be balancing the arrival of his baby daughter with the small matter of the long trip to Portsmouth.
“My missus has a due date of 4 August so I’m hoping the little one pops out before that!” he said. “It could be a heck of a taxi ride to or from Portsmouth if we’re still waiting through that weekend.
“The baby is good news but it’s getting very real now ... and it’s costing me a small fortune. She’ll soon be here so it’s all gearing up to be a good season, even with the lack of sleep factored in.
“Portsmouth is one of the big games of the season and we’re starting with it, which is brilliant. We had it at Oxford a few years ago and it was a full house, just after they’d had their takeover. The atmosphere that day was scary, but it was amazing to experience it.
“We beat them 4-1 so that shows what can happen if you step up to the challenge. We’ve got a lot of work to do before that but our focus will be on kicking the season off properly.”