Preston North End manager Alex Neil spoke to iFollow PNE less than 48 hours before the resumption of the Sky Bet Championship.
And the Lilywhites boss believes that the three-month gap has provided his side an opportunity to recover, reflect and get to a stage where they are more ready for the final nine games than they were back in March.
“This week the players have been really on point; the training has been sharp,” the gaffer told the official website. “I think the determination throughout the squad is there, I think the quality has been very, very good.
“The fitness levels have come back excellent. We have got some minutes into them over the last week and a half to make sure they are as match sharp as they can be before we start and we have not really been affected that badly by injuries – we have the majority of our players back fit at the moment.
“We are in a better shape than we were when it stopped and that is really pleasing for me. What it allows us to do, is go and give it our best shot, with pretty much a full squad and go and see how it goes, with no excuses. We want to try and go as well as we can.
“The determination, the optimism and the willingness to do well is really high – I think the break did them a world of good. They went away and realised how much of an opportunity we currently have got. They realised how much work they have put in just to get there and they are very determined to get us across the line and get us in those Play-Offs.
“We know it is not going to be easy, there are a lot of teams on our coat tails, but what we have done is to put ourselves in a position where if we take of our business, we don’t need to look anywhere else. The onus is on us to go and try and win as many games as we can and hopefully find ourselves in there.
“We have got some of the teams below us still to play and that makes it even spicier going into those games and they will be games that everyone will be looking forward to.
“It is a great position to be in; the last place you want to be is down the bottom of the division fighting and scrapping to stay in the division. We have earned the right to be in the top half and have been on the top six for the majority of the season and we want to go and try and finish it off.
“I have been very proud of what the players have done this season and as far as they are concerned, and I am concerned, we are not finished, we still have a lot of work to do.”
Preparing to face Nathan Jones’ Luton Town is not as straight-forward as it may have usually been in, with the manager returning to Kenilworth Road during the lockdown period and not playing any games yet, but this has meant the focus has purely stayed at home for Alex and the team.
“The emphasis changes depending on who you are playing, the dynamics of how they play and also how much information you have at hand about them.
“We have done a lot of work on Luton on Nathan before, we have looked at Luton under Graeme Jones, we have looked at Stoke under Nathan. We know what they have got and what they are likely to do, but we are also prepped if they don’t do what we expect.
“We are more focused on ourselves for these games, because some of them are so unpredictable and as long as we know what we are trying to do, then it shouldn’t be affect.”
When he spoke to iFollow on Sunday, the Scot admitted that he will have concerns later in the campaign about the fitness of his squad and fatigue, but for now, that is not something that he is worrying about.
“The concerns will come, four, five and six games in,” he continued. “To start with, we will put out a team that we deem most ready at this moment in time – against the opposition we are playing against – to try and get the points, it really is as simple as that.
“I am one for forward planning and thinking ahead, but when we have a mini-season like we have got, our squad’s sole focus is on getting a good start and winning the game in front of us.
“We have not turned our attentions to anyone except Luton over this period, so I am hoping that we are ready and we show the desire and quality that we have shown this week, in the game.”
The fans would have packed the Hatters’ away end back in March, with the game sold out and the manager realises what it means to the supporters and is hoping to repay their faith: “The fans recognise, as much as the players, how much of an opportunity we have got. Going into it, before the break, we were starting to tail off a little bit.
“We were trying that hard and pushing that much to get to where we are, that you could see the effects of it and that is why this break has done us a world of good.
“We are now, like we were at the start of this season, where we were ready, hungry, determined, fit and strong and I think we have got a great chance, but the proof will be in the pudding.
“We have done a lot of talking over this period; we will see where we stand on Saturday after the game,” he added.
Remember, Saturday's game is available to watch anywhere in the world via iFollow PNE, just click here now to sign up for a match pass for just £10 to watch the full game, with commentary from Jonathan Breeze and former PNE defender Tommy Spurr.