Peter Kioso has admitted to a few pre-season nerves after reporting back for duty this week but says that the hard work the players are putting in now will stand them in good stead for 2019/20.
The young defender and his teammates have been thrust straight in at deep end during the opening two days and can expect to cover the distance of a marathon by the end of the week.
It was during pre-season last year that Kioso caught the eye enough to earn a professional deal at Pools but, even twelve months on, he has conceded that there is still some anxiety at what lies in store.
“I always get butterflies!” the 19-year-old laughed.
“I don’t know why and it’s not that I am worried I won’t be able to do it, it’s just that no footballer can stand there and tell me they like doing running but it’s part of our job and you have to do it.
“I get those butterflies but I am making sure I do the work and get through everything to the best of my ability.
“Pre-season is never easy for anyone but everyone is fit and it’s good to get this work in early.
“You can get all the cobwebs blown away and get ready for the season because, as the gaffer has said, we are trying to be the fittest team in the league so this work will definitely help us.
“It’s more of a mental thing when you’re going from the running in to the ball work – that’s all about seeing if we can stay concentrated for a long time when you’re fatigued.
That’s good because it’s the kind of thing that can happen in a game, if we go to extra time or if it’s 0-0 going in to added time at the end of the ninety – you need to stay concentrated, especially as defenders.”
One thing that did raise a laugh on Day One was the sight of new signing Ben Killip breaking with the unwritten rules of goalkeeping and storming up to the front in the first running test.
Typically, keepers are found towards the back of the pile when it comes to that side of training but Killip is bucking the trend – much to the amusement of Kioso and the rest of the players.
“Oh, wow!” Kioso smiled.
“I had a conversation with Ben on Monday and told him that whatever speed he went at I knew I was going to have to go faster because I can’t let a keeper beat me at running!
“Then literally on the first lap he’s in front of me and I was like ‘woah, woah, woah – what’s going on here?’ He was sprinting past everyone!
“He then told us that his mum is a marathon runner – and I was like ‘yeah, that makes sense now’. Nobody in my family is a marathon runner so that’s the excuse!
“Even though I am making jokes, it’s great to see how fit our keeper can be because it’s important to have that high level and Ben has come in and set himself very well for next season.”
Despite the hard miles that lie ahead, it’s evident that Kioso is delighted to be back among the players and a smile is never too far from his face even when the going gets tough.
That’s the positive attitude he is determined to take with him throughout pre-season and in to the fresh campaign, as he looks to help Pools prosper in the National League.
“I am always happy to be here and the boys always take care of me, every time.
“I always feel like one of the lads and never feel out of place, especially with the boys in the house because we’re all just quite silly people and we like to enjoy life.
“My dad is always saying to me to make sure I have a smile on my face and enjoy football every day because you don’t know what could happen.
“So I come in every day and enjoy being around the lads and the banter is always on me but I don’t mind that because I find it funny every now and then!
“I think it was a good season for me last year but I have set myself higher goals now.
“I want to achieve a lot more personally but, more importantly for the team because we want to do as well as possible – if that’s winning the league then let’s go and win the league.
“I am just going to make sure that I put my shift in for the team and that means that every week I give 100% and I am playing to the best of my ability.”