From Austria to Bangkok via Ilkeston, our pre-season at Leicester has seen us rack up some miles but also plenty of good preparation for our return to the Premier League.
Austria has become a really popular place for football teams to go now; the facilities are good, the weather is nice and there are plenty of local teams available to take on.
Although I saw Crystal Palace hammer an Austrian side about 13-1, during our week out there we stuck to the training pitch to continue our fitness work. It was great to get away with the lads and spend some good, quality time together early on in pre-season so the new players could settle in and get to know their team-mates.
Our second trip away also went well - although it was a bit of a strange one. We travelled to Thailand to play Everton in the national stadium out there but decided to stay on English time, so we wouldn’t suffer with jet lag on the way back.
It worked well because returning to England the players were still fresh, despite the long flight. It did mean we were doing two training sessions a day in the dark in Thailand though, with our second one finishing at about 1am local time!
We’ve got Everton at home in the first game of the Premier League season and it was good to win a testing match against them in Bangkok, although they were missing five or six first-team regulars. When you’re winning games, it breeds confidence and having won all three pre-season matches so far, the lads are full of confidence.
David Nugent in particular is enjoying himself - he scored a great goal against Walsall the other night, bending the ball in with the outside of his foot, and scored an even better one against Everton which was wrongly disallowed.
All of our forwards are excited and fired up in training at the moment and as the strikers’ coach, that’s great news for me. I’ve been able to have quite a few sessions with them to get my messages across and it’s all looking good.
The club’s record signing Leonardo Ulloa has also come in and seems excited about what’s ahead. Obviously his £8million transfer from Brighton is a big-money move for him and coming to a Premier League club is a big opportunity. But his goals record at Brighton was excellent and from what I’ve seen so far, I’m convinced he can make the step up. His finishing has been excellent and he’s a nice guy, too, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on.
The Premier League is going to be a big step up for the whole squad, though, and Everton spending £28m on Romelu Lukaku is an example of what we’re coming up against. We’re not in the league where we can splash out £20m or so on a player - maybe we could, but our manager wouldn’t do that - and clearly Everton are in front of us in those terms.
But although they had some big names missing, we showed when we played against them that we’re more than capable of giving any team in the Premier League a good game.
Everton will be a tough opening fixture for us but we’re the home team, it’s our first game in the Premier League and it will be an electric atmosphere at the King Power Stadium and you’d like to think the players will respond to that, give it everything they’ve got and who knows, maybe we’ll catch a few teams off guard this year.
We’ve got four more friendlies to go, we’re progressing well and everyone’s looking forward to the big kick-off now.
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