Preston North End’s veteran midfielder Paul Gallagher says his enthusiasm still burns as brightly as ever in what is his 18th pre-season as a first-team footballer.
The 34-year-old has done the graft of pre-season since 2002 and hopes to do a few more yet in his career.
Gallagher is currently in Ireland with PNE, the squad having a six-day training camp at the Fota Island complex.
The trip over the water is a key stage of the build-up to the new season which starts at Millwall on August 3.
With his 35th birthday in September, Gallagher could be forgiven if he dreaded the pre-season work – far from it, though.
Gallagher said: “I started back in 2002 so I’ve plenty of pre-seasons under my belt.
“As always I’ve prepared properly for this one, keeping myself in shape during the summer break and doing the work they advise.
“During the long-distance running I’ve been near the front – if I was towards the back I’d be worried.
“I’ve enjoyed the work so far, it’s tough going but it is an important stage of the season.
“You need to get the hard yards into your legs because there is a long season in front of you and as players you want to hit the ground running.
“As a team you need to be strong and powerful – that will only come will being really fit.
“We have started playing the friendly games now which is a step forward in the build-up to the season.
“Those games are about getting fitness and getting through them healthily.
“When you start playing them, the competitive side of you starts to kick in and that adds an edge to your work.”
This is the sixth pre-season Gallagher has done with the Lilwyhites and he is excited about the campaign ahead. “We are all looking forward to the season and we know what we want to achieve,” said Gallagher.
“As a team and a club we are always looking to improve.
“The manager wants as much competition for places as he can in all positions, which can only be good.
“Players need keeping on their toes and you get that with competition.
“Patrick Bauer has come in at the back and he will boost the competition there.
“No doubt there will be some others coming in for other positions.
“We are in a good place at the moment as a squad and any new arrivals can only help improve us.
“Lads have come back who were injured last season, they will be pushing to play a part.”