Preston North End’s Irish international striker, Sean Maguire, is hoping for a season of progression at Deepdale.
The Lilywhites’ No.24 spoke to iFollow PNE to look ahead to the new campaign and admitted he was looking to put together partial seasons as a whole in 2019/20.
The former Cork man finished his first season with double figures in the goals column, despite missing four months of the season with a serious hamstring injury and in the last campaign he again was unable to feature in a large chunk of the early part of the campaign.
However, with a full pre-season behind him and a rest over the summer, Seani is ready to go again: “I have set myself a marker for the season, but it is something I will keep to myself, because I don’t want to put pressure on myself from those looking from the outside,” he said.
“It is a season where I don’t need to kick on, but I really want to kick on. It is my third season in the Championship and my third season with Preston North End and I want to kick on as an individual and kick on as a team.
“First off is to have a full year where I am fully fit and it is a year where as a club we need to push on. Last year, without injuries, I think we would have been there or thereabouts, but the gaffer bringing in a couple of players has boosted the morale and it’s a year where we should look to push on and be in and around the top six.”
The Championship gets back underway with a trip to Millwall this weekend and the fight for a place in the starting line-up is a big one, with every player out on the training pitch as the manager put the players through their paces in the middle of the week leading up to the new campaign.
“We’ve been back in five or six weeks, grafting, playing seven or eight pre-season games and it has all been gearing up to this first game of the season,” continued the 25-year-old.
“It has come around pretty quickly, probably because we have had a game every three or four days, which is great, because every player is now fully match fit with 90 minutes under their belt, so we are raring to go against Millwall this Saturday.
“Something like 22 players have had at least one 90-minute run out, so it is great competition going into the game on Saturday. It is a good place for the gaffer to be in and he can have a look at what’s available and see who is looking sharp.
“Against Newcastle, a Premier League side, I thought we put in a good performance. I know we are a week ahead of them in pre-season terms, but at that stage of pre-season it is not about the result, but about the way we play and getting match fit and that is exactly what we have been doing the last five weeks.
"The most important thing was to get through without any injury concerns, because this time last season myself and Billy [Bodin] and myself were ruled out. I was out for three or four months and Billy was out for the season, so it is brilliant for the gaffer now to have a fully fit squad to choose from.”
And despite having had spells out of the side with injuries and other members of the squad being in a similar boat, the West Ham United Academy graduate says no quarter is being given in training in an attempt to make manager Alex Neil’s first squad of the season on Saturday afternoon.
“You can get injured walking out of your front door, so you cannot have the mentality of walking into training thinking ‘what could happen’. Everyone is putting 100 per cent into training, which is good, because there is a competitive edge to training.
“There are four strikers to choose from. Nuge came back into things with 45 minutes against Fleetwood last Friday, so it has been good the last couple of weeks ago.
“Games come thick and fast in the Championship and everyone is going to play their part. There is going to be 50-plus games this season and it is something I am really looking forward to.”
Last year’s trip to The Den saw Maguire add a third goal in the first half hour, as the green-clad travelling side blew away their hosts in the opening stages, but Maguire believes the first few minutes at the weekend will be a lot more cagey.
“The first game of the season is going to be tough. Both teams are probably going to be a bit nervy, adrenaline pumping around the stadium with both sets of fans.
“The first ten or 15 minutes are going to be cagey, probably not a lot of football played, but once the game settles down, we have more than enough to put on a performance and get the three points.
“We went [to The Den] last season and put in a really good display and we will be hoping to do the same this weekend.
“Last year at Millwall was one of my better games and is probably the best I felt in about in a year. Last year, with injuries, I was in and out and wasn’t – both physically and mentally – 100 per cent, but switching off now in the off season and having had a few pre-season games under my belt, it is the best I have felt in a year,” he added.
Watch the full interview with Seani ahead of the weekend on iFollow PNE by clicking on the video above.