Sam Allardyce has been through more than 40 pre-seasons during his career as a player, coach and manager, but the anticipation remains as big as ever for the West Ham United boss.
Big Sam starts his third campaign in charge at the Boleyn Ground with the Barclays Premier League visit of Cardiff City on Saturday 17 August. Before then, however, the manager hopes to further strengthen his squad, while also ensuring his players are fit and ready for the season ahead.
Speaking exclusively to West Ham TV at the Club's pre-season training camp in Cork, Republic of Ireland, Big Sam also praised their opening pre-season opponents Cork City for their hospitality on the Emerald Isle.
"Our norm is to go Switzerland or Austria at this time of year in pre-season for a little bit of altitude training in the forests, but this year we have come to Ireland and the overall care and hospitality that Cork City have shown us has been absolutely excellent," said Big Sam.
"Along with the facilities - two fabulous pitches, a great hotel and superb areas in the forest for the lads to do their early-morning bike rides - it is also a lot shorter journey than going to Austria so everybody has enjoyed it that little bit more.
"The training has been as intense as ever at this time of year and everybody is feeling a little fatigued now, but they'll get 45 minutes in and, as long as we don't get any injuries it will have been a very worthwhile trip. Both us and Cork City have also enjoyed it very much and hopefully we can stay in contact in the future because of the facilities here and the way they have looked after us."
While Big Sam enjoyed his summer break, the constant nature of the transfer market and planning for the upcoming campaign meant he was never far from his mobile phone or laptop. While he anticipates a quieter time than in the previous two years, the manager still has plenty of work to do between now and the big kick-off.
"For me, it's two years in and fewer players will have to leave or come into the Club, which is great for me. The last two seasons have been traumatic in change-around terms, particularly the first one when I look back on it. It was horrendous, with something like 28 players going out and 20 coming in during one season. We had to cope with that and re-build the football team.
"At this moment in time, I'm a lot more comfortable because the players and staff know what I am looking for and how I work. They know what I want and it is their responsibility to drive the players forward in every department to extract even more out of them this year than they did last season."
Big Sam and his staff have already been busy in the market, bringing in England forwar Andy Carroll, Romania captain Razvan Rat, Spanish goalkeeper Adrian and youngster Danny Whitehead on permanent deals. While he does not expect to be signing too many more new players, the manager confirmed that his business is not yet complete.
"I think they will add real quality to the squad. You always want a little bit more and you are never satisfied as a manager. I am not saying that is the end of what we are going to bring in and we will look to add one more player at least. If we can secure that one more player, that would probably be it.
"What I want in that one player is top quality. I want that player coming in to challenge the players already here for their place immediately and keep it. That would help improve the team. I want somebody to come in and make a real difference, as we did last year when the players we brought in made a massive difference. That took us to the next level and led to us having a fantastic season and finish tenth."
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