Josh Harrop has stressed the need for Preston North End to start the season strongly.
The Lilywhites had to play a game of catch-up last year following a below-par first two months.
By the end of September they only had five points, that the type of start they cannot afford if they are serious about a challenge at the right end of the Championship.
Midfielder Harrop told the Lancashire Post: “Last season we didn’t do well enough at the start, that was clear to see.
“We put a few points on the board early on but generally it wasn’t good enough and we were a bit slow off the mark.
“The lads know that they have to be ready from the very start, we have to be at it from the first game.
“We’ll be working hard in pre-season to get ourselves ready and the friendly games will be a big part of that, they are a chance to get your eye in and get properly focused.
“It’s about building those partnerships on the pitch so you have confidence going into the season.”
Last year, North End took four points from their first three league games, beating Queens Park Rangers, losing at Swansea and drawing with Stoke City.
Then came a seven game run when all they had to show for their efforts was a solitary point from a 2-2 draw against Bolton – a game they had led 2-0 in.
That run dumped PNE to the foot of the Championship and it needed a strong revival during October, November and early December to carry them up the table.
Looking at what is ahead of him and his team-mates this season, Harrop said: “We go to Millwall first which won’t be easy, they can be strong at home.
“Then it’s Wigan at home which is a bit of a derby game and one which went well for us last season.
“It’s the first couple of games you tend to focus on at this point, they are what you work to over pre-season.
“When the season starts, you have a busy first month and it’s just getting ready for the next one.
“After missing most of last season, I can’t wait to get back and start playing again.”
This is the third season at Deepdale for Harrop since he joined from Manchester United in June 2017.
The 23-year-old has plenty to prove, with the majority of his appearances in the first season being off the bench.
He started 12 games and came on as a sub in 27 others, scoring four times.
Last year, Harrop’s season was curtailed after only nine appearances when he tore his cruciate ligament.
Having worked through the summer building-up his fitness, he will be looking to push for a more regular start in Alex Neil’s side.