West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice believes a productive pre-season can help him and the team make a flying start to the new Premier League campaign.
Having enjoyed an outstanding 2018/19 campaign and represented England at the inaugural UEFA Nations League finals at the start of June, the three-time Young Hammer of the Year has since mixed spells of relaxation and physical conditioning in Florida and Dubai.
And, after upping the intensity of his work during pre-season training camps in Switzerland, China and Austria, Rice believes the hard graft will pay off as he and his team-mates look ahead to their Premier League opener against champions Manchester City on Saturday 10 August.
There’s no point having the season I did last year, and then dwelling on it this year and not having a good season
“I’m feeling good for it, and I can feel it on the pitch. I’m feeling fit, I’m feeling good, and that’s the way I wanted to feel," said the 20-year-old, who is set to return to action at London Stadium in Saturday's Betway Cup clash with Spanish side Athletic Club.
“I need to progress. I know I can go to another level and with the teammates we’ve got, and everyone wanting to be here with the new additions coming in, I feel like we’re setting ourselves up strongly for a good season.”
Rice stressed the importance of a solid start to the domestic campaign as the team targets the European qualification places.
He said: “There’s no point having the season I did last year, and then dwelling on it this year and not having a good season.
“I think if you look at it, last season the start killed us, but we only finished, in the end, four points off seventh. If you think of the games we lost last season, which we should be getting results from, we could be well up there.”
This summer marks the start of manager Manuel Pellegrini’s second season in charge of the Irons, and Rice feels that this familiarity could be the key to success.
“I think we are making the squad stronger,” Rice said, alluding to the signings of Pablo Fornals and Sebastien Haller. “That was the manager’s first season last year, and now we’re getting a full pre-season with him, we know how we work from last season, and everything’s looking really positive and confident.”