Tom Barkhuizen admits the break from football has highlighted his love for the game and he can't wait to return to action with everything to play for when the Championship resumes.
Barkhuizen explained how his hunger to return to playing has only increased as the break went on and is now fully focused on a positive end to the season as the Lilywhites look to secure a place in the top six.
Speaking to iFollow PNE from his home after returning from training, the 27-year-old said: "Football has always been more of a job for someone like me, I think when it takes over your life, you have that many ups and downs that you can't really enjoy it because you know that a down is only around the corner. But I think the time off has given me, not a reset, but I have missed it.
"Everyone enjoys it when you get a couple of weeks off work or school or whatever It is, but I think with not knowing when we would be back, it was something that changed my thought process towards how much you do enjoy it and it's not just your job.
"You realise the privileged position that you're in that you get to go and play football for a living. So there will probably be more nerves flying around before those first few games because of the excitement having not played for so long.
"It will be good to be back and pull on the shirt with the rest of the lads and get ourselves going and get that feeling back again. You can do as much training as you want, nobody enjoys training, and there is no feeling that you can replicate going out on to the pitch and fighting for something.
"Fortunately for us we are fighting for the biggest prize of all that we can play for, so we need to enjoy it and try and do something that not many people think we can do, but it's something that everyone at the club believes massively that we have got the talent, the dedication and everything to go up and we will be giving it everything."
The squad were back at Springfields on for their second week of training, and as of Tuesday, they could begin contact training for the first time after the club received approval from the EFL, something Barkhuizen feels was another step towards normality.
"There will be a few of the defenders ready to lay a few elbows on the back of the striker's heads!” He joked. “It will just be a continuation of getting back to normal, we are happy enough in our small groups but I think there's only so long before that becomes a normality which you don't want.
"As long as things keep moving along smoothly and regularly, there is no reason why we can't be ready for that first game as if it was any other start to a season.
"The training has been pretty specific towards getting fit and getting back with the ball again. We have all worked extremely hard over the few weeks that we had off which was massively important that everyone did that. I think we just need to keep ourselves right mentally as well physically, we have got a goal to aim for now with the season starting in less than three weeks. If someone would have said that a few weeks ago you would think it was madness. It's nice to have things to look forward to and for things to keep smoothly going along, as long as there is no mishaps between now and then, it will be all guns blazing at Luton away."
After over two months away from the training ground, the players have come back in good shape after maintaining their fitness from home and Barkhuizen feels the trust put in to the squad from the manager and the coaching staff was a big factor.
"I think it epitomised the squad that we've built, we always sign a certain type of player who fits in with the mould and has the same mentality, or that has been the case since I've been here, that's what I've noticed. We don't sign anyone who is a bad influence or has been talked about as being a bad influence and it's a testament to the club's policy where we do sign the right type of person as well as player.
"The last thing you would want is someone coming in and disrupting the group where they are going off doing their own thing and 90 per cent of the squad are thinking we have got the biggest nine games of our career coming up.
"The club put so much trust in us because they know what people and what players they have signed and they know that nobody is going to take the mick and nobody is putting Strava on the dog and making the dog run around instead!"
On that trust between the staff and players, he continued: "It works both ways, it was good to have the trust from them and it made us work a little bit harder. Speaking to a few of the other lads, in the last couple of weeks we got more of a schedule and that's where it was hard to follow as we had been used to doing our own thing and putting in the effort that way. We all agreed that if we had been given a strict regime to follow for six or seven weeks, by week two or three you are probably getting sick of it, having to follow it step by step.
"We are all adults, we are all professional enough and know what we need to be doing and, from my point of view, it was the best way we could have gone about it because it helped the players take on the responsibility and force each other to do. We are all man enough in our dressing room that if someone wasn't doing it, we would enforce them to do it rather than having to wait for the manager or the staff to do it. At the end of the day, we are all pushing for the same thing and that's to be ready for Luton.
"The sessions are hard, the sessions we do mid-season are tough enough as it is but obviously now we have to condense it to get ourselves ready to go and the gaffer is making sure he's getting us ready. It is his job so we all know what he's like and we know he's extremely hard working and that comes back to the type of players that he's brought it. We are all hard working players, we all put everything in to it and at the end of the day it's something that we've got used to. We know it's not going to change so it's about getting your head down, getting to the finish line then going home and getting your rest."
Watch the full interview with Tom Barkhuizen now on iFollow PNE by clicking on the video above.