Leon Best hopes to make the most of Rovers’ pre-season friendlies, in a bid to be fighting fit for the start of the season.
The 26-year-old joined Rovers from Newcastle last summer, but spent almost the entire 2012-13 season on the sidelines after suffering cruciate knee ligament damage in a friendly against AEK Athens 12 months ago.
Leon insists he is still overcoming both the physical and mental effects of the injury, but hopes to be firing on all cylinders come August 4th.
“This pre-season is massive for me,” said Leon, who scored the winning goal in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Portimonense.
“What happened last pre-season is still in my head and so it keeps me focused. It’s just about doing everything right. Rest is just as important as doing all the runs, but the main thing for me is I want to be playing in that first game, feeling 100%, with no injuries.
“The week in Portugal has been good, but it’s also been hard – running in the heat and taking part in some tough sessions, but that’s what pre-season is all about, getting yourself fit.
“From the first game (Wrexham) to the second game (Portimonense), I think it’s paid off. Speaking to the boys, everyone felt a lot better and looked a lot better.
“The goals are always nice, to get me in the swing of things and get me used to doing it, but the main thing for me is fitness.
“I have to take each game as it comes and work a little bit harder. If that’s 45 minutes or 60 minutes here and there, just so when that first game comes, I’m lively and ready and fit and sharp, because that’s when everything counts.
“Even now I get frustrated with myself in games and training, because I’m still not back to my normal self. A lot of people won’t see it with me, but I definitely feel it.
“It’s just about me working hard, doing the right things in the games, getting used to everything again and getting myself back to where I want to be.”
With less than three weeks to go until the big kick-off, Leon insists there is a great team spirit in the camp and he believes the players will have learnt a lot of lessons from last season’s testing campaign.
“I can feel that there’s a good buzz about the place at the minute,” he added.
“Hopefully it’s going to be a good year. There’s a good feeling, the boys that have been brought in are good lads and I think everyone knows what we need to do now.
“We had the warm-up season in the Championship to let everyone know what the Championship’s about and I think now we can go in and show what we can do.”