Matthew Upson is enjoying being back in the thick of things at Chadwell Heath as pre-season training steps up a gear.
The central defender enjoyed a memorable first full campaign at the Boleyn Ground with highlights including captaining the team to victory against his former club Birmingham City, showing good form to win back his England place and heading the winner against champions-elect Manchester United. However, the season ended frustratingly with a knock keeping him out of the final few games but he is back and raring to go this pre-season.
"I am finding my feet again pre-season after recovering from my injury over the summer," Upson said. "I was disappointed to miss the last few games of last season obviously as felt I was playing well but I have put that behind me now and am looking forward to what will hopefully be a 100 per cent season for me in terms of staying fit."
The No6 has not minded the hard work out on the training pitches, with double sessions and intense work-outs the order of the day. "I know some players really don't like pre-season but I don't mind it to be honest, it can he tough after you have had six weeks off but you have to go through this hard work to be ready for the new season so I just see it as part and parcel of the job."
Also keeping Upson motivated is the emergence of James Tomkins and the rehabilitation of Welsh defensive duo James Collins and Danny Gabbidon. All could have their eyes on challenging Upson and Anton Ferdinand for a starting berth in the new campaign. The 29-year-old is not worried though. "The way I see it is that the more competition we have the healthier the squad and that is the attitude amongst the whole squad I think. We really missed players like Ginge and Gabbs last season so it will be good to see them back.
"James Tomkins also did very well when he got his chance so there is no reason why he may not continue where he left off so I know I have to fight to get my place back but will obviously do my hardest to do that." With Upson determined and plenty of attacking options ahead of him, there is plenty of positives to be seen at the training ground.
"The team didn't quite have that edge in those games to go and get victories to get into those European spots last year so hopefully we can get closer to achieving that this season. There is a good feeling on confidence and optimism amongst everyone and having a nearly fit squad out on the training pitch everyday is huge boost which in turn should result in us finishing higher up the table this season."