It doesn’t matter how long players have been involved in football – coming back for pre-season is always tough.
No pain no gain, a means to an end, all the usual phrases apply for those weeks training and friendly matches during the build-up to the big kick-off, which for Wolves this year is Norwich on August 10th.
This week it’s all about the triple sessions at Compton, a 7.30am run, morning football session and afternoon working on further gym or additional training to blow away any summer cobwebs.
Pre-season is planned out to the last detail, and for returning skipper Samuel Ricketts, a necessary base and foundation for what lies ahead.
“Pre-season is never easy,” says Ricketts.
“You do your bit over the summer to keep things ticking over but the level of fitness needed to play top level football is so high now that for the first few weeks you have to push your body to the maximum.
“It’s early starts for this week – the gaffer is keen to get started early with conditional running although at five miles or so it’s a good start to the day!”
There are five particularly welcome faces at training this week.
Three – Carl Ikeme, Dave Edwards and Richard Stearman – who has signed new contracts albeit with only the latter two whose deals were due to expire.
Then new signings Tommy Rowe and Rajiv van La Parra, acquired in the hope of building up the quality and competition for places within the squad.
“We had a successful season last year and the three lads that have signed new contracts were a big part of that,” added Ricketts.
“So it’s a big boost to the club that they have stayed.
“We did have a great year but it is important that the club doesn’t stand still and continues to improve and keeping those lads helps towards that.
“And it’s good to see the new lads arriving as well.
“It’s early days and we’re only just getting the footballs out but they seem like honest and hard-working lads.
“They’re proven talents and will be good additions to the squad.”
All the pre-season training and friendly games are of course the preparation for the main course ahead, a return for Wolves – and indeed Ricketts – to the Sky Bet Championship.
That’s a division that is tough and unforgiving, just like a pre-season, but it’s a challenge which the skipper is both relishing and looking forward to.
“Last year was great but just because we did well then there is no divine right we are going to do it again,” he said.
“We have to forget that now apart from taking the positives from having a successful base of how we want to play.
“We need to improve again and be better than we were last year and pre-season helps with the preparation for that.
“I think it is going to be a very tight league with maybe three or four wins between bottom half of the table and the play-offs.
“The margins can be that tight and I think you can come into February and maybe find a situation where most teams can still get promoted.
“We wanted to get into this league and now we are there we want to push on again.
“We are not settling here or saying mid table is where we want to be – we want to be as high up as possible but so do ten or 12 other teams.”