Rotherham United striker Michael Smith believes the early omens are good for the club’s 2020/21 tilt at the Sky Bet Championship having reported back to Roundwood for an elongated pre-season regime recently.
Smith has become synonymous with his tireless displays in the forward line during his time in Millers colours and has already been commended in the press by boss Paul Warne for the shape in which he has returned following the UK lockdown.
However, the striker was quick to heap similar praise on his teammates, who he are also near the height of their physical powers having seen them in passing during staggered training sessions at the club's training HQ.
"The lads are working really hard and everyone is looking in really good shape,” he told www.themillers.co.uk.
"I feel that [his own fitness] is down to Ross' [Burbeary] off-season programme.
"We've got to grind the pre-season out.
"I think it has been a bit tougher than normal because we didn't know if the season was going to pick back up.”
The Millers, who once again proved themselves to be an uber-fit group in the 2019/20 season before it was curtailed, have so often laid the foundations for their success in that department in pre-season and with Warne requesting regular updates on running tracking app Strava, Smith believes he and his peers are already in a good place on that front.
“Yorkshire is very, very hilly,” he grinned.
“I'm not used to running up and down all the hills. I think some of the time have been a bit deceiving!
"The Gaffer's pre-seasons are notorious. Germany last year kicked it all off. We were up and down hills running 5km at 7am.”
The 28-year-old has recently become a father and has had to balance the tricky task of parenting with maintaining his fitness throughout the lockdown but admits the chance to witness the growth of his new-born daughter first-hand has been one of the few blessings during the months without football.
"If the season had carried on I would have missed the first two or three months with her so getting to see her grow every day is magic,” Smith proudly explained.
"I think it has been a blessing in disguise more than anything obviously getting to spend as much time with her as possible.”
However, with plenty of hard miles still to come the industrious frontman is looking forward to having another crack at the second tier with the Millers and although he admits the early landscape could still look a little unusual, he is relishing the task of locking horns with some big names having already proven themselves capable in the FA Cup clash with Hull City this season.
"They [Hull] are an established Championship side and we pitted ourselves against them that day,” Smith continued.
"I can't wait. The main thing would have been playing in front of thirty and forty thousand every other week. We obviously don't know when that's going to happen again but I playing against better teams in bigger stadiums is something we're looking forward to.
"I think we've got more than enough to compete next year and I'm looking forward to it."