Defender Shaun Brisley has been one of the stand-out performers through pre-season as he has come back looking determined to stake a claim for one of the central defensive positions with the season now just two weeks away.
We caught up with him at the Mottram Hall training camp this week to talk about pre-season so far, and about a very testing day at Cassius Camps on Monday.
“My legs have felt better!" he told us. "Cassius was an experience I really enjoyed. The lads who had been before built it up beforehand so we were a bit apprehensive in terms of not knowing what to expect.
“It was definitely one of the toughest things I’ve done but at the end of it there was a real sense of achievement and I felt like I’d got something really good out of it. Whenever you do some hard work there's always a sense of achievement when you’ve completed it and it was nice to get through everything which was put in front of me."
Part of the challenge was to overcome the mental barrier of abseiling down a 200ft cliff face with the rest of squad looking on and offering their encouragement.
“Even though I’m 6”4 I’m not the best with heights," he confirmed. "I have a little fear of them but when we were doing the abseil I just made sure I didn’t look down.
"As I say, it was a fear of mine so to have conquered it was another thing to tick off the list.”
On coming back in such good shape for pre-season, he said: “We all had our meetings at the end of the season with the manager and that was something he pointed out.
"He wanted me to come back fitter and stronger to give myself the best chance of playing as many games as possible this season.
“I went away in the close season and worked really hard. I still had my break, and I took my time off my legs and things like that, but I did a lot of work to help myself and put myself in the best possible condition I could be for pre-season.
"This year is probably the best I’ve ever felt for coming back to work. I think everybody has done the same because we've all come back really fit and raring to go. That’s only going to be a plus when the season finally comes round.
"There is some good competition for places in my position, which is nice, because it pushes you on. Everyone wants to play so everyone motivates each other and it helps bring the best out of you, both in training and in games."
Looking back a year, we asked him about how much of an impact last summer's ankle injury had made on his season as a whole.
“I got injured during pre-season last year which had never happened to me before," he told us. "It took a couple of months off me because of the catch up I had to do to get up to the level the other lads were at.
"I don’t like to use it as an excuse because injuries happen and its part and parcel of the game. It'll be nice to get a full pre-season under my belt, with no niggles, because you then go into the season knowing you’re as fit as you possibly can be."
A big part of what every player has talked about so far has been the need to see improvement in the goals conceded column, and he admitted that was something he was particularly keen to help with.
“We know we conceded too many goals last year," he said. "As a defender that’s part of your job. Keeping clean sheets is better for us than scoring goals, but without scoring goals you don’t win games.
"It would obviously be nice to keep a lot more clean sheets this season and get the goals against down. We don’t want to sacrifice goals, we still want to score as many as we can, but more clean sheets would definitely be nice.
“Pre-season has gone quite quickly and there isn’t long left until the start of the season. The next couple of weeks will be about topping up the energy levels and getting the hard work in during the final two friendlies.
"It’s all about making sure you’re both physically and mentally prepared for the start of the season. I’ve worked hard and hopefully I’ll be involved in that first game against Swindon.”
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