Midfielder Luke Joyce is one of those annoying people who quite literally takes running in his stride so we caught up with him on Saturday morning to confirm that he does in fact, in some way, quite enjoy the intensity of a very tough pre-season programme.
“In a weird kind of way I do enjoy it, yeah,” he said. “We all know we’ve got to do it and I think it’s something like 15 pre-seasons I’ve been through now. There’s no real change to the fact that it’s hard graft and you pull each other through it as a team as you go along.
“It’s a good way to integrate the new lads because we’ve all got to get behind each other and push each other on. It’s been a tough three days so you look forward to your Sunday off before you crack on again on Monday.
“The lads have come back in good shape and everyone is working hard, as you’d expect. I’d like to think I’m quite strong at the running side of it and that’s something I do work on through the summer.
“I generally have two to three weeks off and then I’m back at it to make sure I’m fit and ready. I pride myself on that and I know a few of the boys don’t like it when they’re in my group for running, so I take that as a bit of a compliment. Hopefully it helps to kick them on a bit as well.”
With Kelvin Etuhu recently added to the midfield armoury the competition for places within the middle third of the pitch will be as intense as ever next season with plenty of options for the manager to think about ahead of the new campaign.
“We’ve been talking about that in the dressing room because even though we’re only three days in to pre-season there’s a quality and depth there already,” he commented. “I know the gaffer will want to bring in more players in other areas so there’s going to be competition all over the park.
“That’s something as a professional you’ve got to look forward to and you hope that come the first day you’re the one who is on the starting eleven. It’s exactly what I did last season. I looked round and thought – I want to be part of that.
Competition is healthy for everyone and even if you aren’t first choice at times you’ve got to keep your head down and keep working hard ...
“Competition is healthy for everyone and even if you aren’t first choice at times you’ve got to keep your head down and keep working hard. If you do the work in training and keep trying to impress the manager, it will then come down to his decision as to when you get back in.”
With the play-off defeat against Exeter still relatively fresh in the memory we wondered if that would leave any signs of a hangover as we head towards August.
“Obviously you do think a little bit about what could have happened but I don’t think you can linger on it for too long,” he told us. “We move on now because we’ve got new players and a new look squad, but we have the same desire and appetite to go one better than last season.
“Being back together brings a bit of a buzz as well. It’s nice to get a bit of rest time with the family but you’re itching to get back to the banter and the lads and to be working in your normal routine.
“We all love football and that’s why we’re in the game. We’re lucky enough to be doing the job we do so if you were to say you weren’t looking forward to coming back it would probably mean you’re in the wrong business.”
And that first game in just a month’s time is a home game, with some of the other notable fixtures also falling in our favour as we go through the 2017/18 season.
“It’s really good that we’re home first day, Boxing Day and last day for a change,” he said. “I think they’ve looked at the past few years and decided they were best being kind to us. Hopefully we’ll be able to do all of it properly and we’ll make it a success.
“I’m looking forward to it. Obviously you do look to see who you’re playing and when you’re playing them, and there’s quite a few games to look forward to. Swindon have come down from the level above and they have a new manager, so they’ll be a test for us.
“Their gaffer will be looking to put his stamp on the team and they’ll want to get off to a good start just as much as we do. We have the pre-season friendly games to go first and it’ll be nice to get the shirt on and get out there to get the match fitness and sharpness going again.
“It’s all about letting the manager see you in match situations so that you’re in his head when he’s thinking about that Swindon game.”