Midfielder Mike Jones started his third pre-season with the Blues on Thursday and he was quick to confirm that it feels good to be back following the summer break.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said. “To get a break is nice, but you do start to miss the craic and banter with the lads.
"Football is a fun environment, so it is nice to be amongst that on a daily basis. We’ve got the first session out of the way and it's good to be doing it all again.
"I do think it’s important to get a break, but when you’ve done this since you were 17 or 18 it is strange once you get past a couple of weeks of having doen nothing. We’re all used to being in a group of lads every day, so you do miss it.
"Like I say, it's nice to get away with family, and things like that, but it’s also nice to be back and ready to work."
But with pre-season programmes now at full tilt from the moment the lads arrive back in work, he told us: “I don’t think people really have as much time off now as they used to.
"Most lads are back doing fitness stuff quite early, so you have to yourself to keep in touch. It’s always different doing stuff yourself to what you do when you’re back in and all together again.
"During the summer you don’t really touch a ball, it’s mostly running and whatever you can do on holiday. When you’re back on the grass, that’s what it’s all about, and it feels good to have the footballs out again."
On the arrival of John Sheridan - a man he knows well from his days at Oldham - he commented: “We’ve obviously got a new management team so everyone is coming in with a clean slate and everyone is out to impress him.
"I know him from my time at Oldham so I know what to expect. I know the demands he’ll put on us as individuals and as a team, and I know he’s here to get us promoted. I just can’t wait to get started and work hard to impress.
“The gaffer has said he’s here to be successful and he’s got the experience to acheive that. He played at the highest level and had promotions with other teams. Tommy [Wright] has got great experience as well, and I’m sure all of the coaches will demand a lot from us.
"I think that’s what we need to be honest, those huge demands, because we have to get out of this league. We’ve failed twice now, so the demands have to be higher otherwise we aren’t going to achieve what we want to achieve."
“There’s no hiding place, everyone knows we went out to get promoted in both of the last two seasons, and we didn’t get it done," he added. "We finished sixth in the first season and a lot of people saw that as success, but that’s no good when you get beaten in the play-offs as far as I'm concerned.
"You might as well have finished 18th for what it ends up being worth. Last season, realistically, we were never near it. We know we’ve fell short considering the players we’ve had in the building, the stature of the club and the fan base.
"The fans have been brilliant during my time here, they turn up in good numbers for this level and we need to get out of this league for them. Maybe it's now with the new gaffer coming in with his experience and his demands that we can produce it."
With the new season comes the inevitable arrival of a crop of new faces who need to settle into the dressing room.
“It’s good to meet the new lads and I think it’s always important to freshen things up," he said. "The new players will add strength in depth to the squad and bring different qualities, which we’ve maybe lacked.
"The lads who are still here can add to those qualities and hopefully improve. I always look to improve, last year my performances were up and down, so this year I want to make sure I’m consistently on my game so I can get into the manager’s team.
“I'm probably my own worst critic, but when there are thousands of people watching me every week there's no point in me coming off the pitch and claiming I had a good game when I know I didn’t.
"I know when I play well and when I don’t. Last year was a little bit disappointing as a team and individually I was far too up and down for my own liking. That maybe had a little bit to do with coming back from my ankle injury, but that's fine now and I feel good. I’m 31 in August, but I still feel like I’m in my mid-20s, so I'm ready to take this on again."
As for the also inevitable question about targets, he told us: “It would be nice to chip in with a few goals this season!
"I was disappointed with that side of my game last year, so we’ll see how we set out as a team. It would be an added bonus if I can start nipping in with some goals again.”
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