JAMES PERCH is looking forward to his third season at Newcastle United after returning to pre-season training yesterday.
The Magpies' Darsley Park headquarters were once again open for business with players coming back in phases to be assessed by club staff, and Perch was one of the first through the door having not been on international duty over the summer.
And, after nailing down a regular spot in Alan Pardew's side towards the end of last season as a result of Steven Taylor's Achilles injury, Perch can expect to play an important role as Newcastle look to repeat last season's success while remaining competitive in the Europa League.
Newcastle's pre-season programme is far from complete, with only the games in Portugal against Olympiacos and Porto on July 27 and 28, and the trip to Cardiff City on August 11 confirmed by the club, with German side Chemnitzer selling tickets for a game against Newcastle slated to take place on July 13, but yet to be announced by the Gallowgate club.
However, despite the uncertainty, Perch knows what benefits a successful pre-season campaign can bring to the rest of the season.
"Pre-season training is a massive, massive part of the season that you have," he said.
"I've missed a couple of the pre-seasons in my career and the football season after hasn't gone the way I'd like it. You pick up little niggles here and there and I think to have a good season you have to complete the pre-season first.
"That's the main aim for the club, to get through pre-season pretty much injury-free."
Newcastle's non-international players enjoyed a longer break than normal as last season ended sooner owing to Euro 2012. And, with pre-season training having a reputation for being tough on a footballer, Perch admitted that his summer excesses were already catching up with him.
"I went to Dubai, and went to America with a couple of the lads. It's good to get away but I'm feeling it now, I only came back yesterday. I'm still on New York time, so getting up at 7am was a bit of a struggle.
"Everyone's come in alright, a few people have enjoyed the summer, I'll say that, which is fair enough.
"Pre-season is a time to get fit, and that's what we intend to do.
"I always prepare for the worst. I prepare for the horrible runs and if it's not that, it's a bonus for me.
"They sent us a programme through the post, it didn't get much use if I'm being honest with you. I do my own thing, whether the other lads stuck to theirs I'm not sure. It's basically eating the right things, drinking the right things, doing a little bit of exercise here and there and coming back in as good a shape as you can, really."
"The banter started flying as soon as I walked back through the door, getting stick off the masseur, all the usual banter which makes you feel like you've never been away."