Rotherham United defender Michael Ihiekwe insists the team are “raring to go” ahead of their first Sky Bet Championship game of the 2020/21 campaign.
The defender missed just two Sky Bet League One fixtures last term but looked set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines following a season-ending injury.
However, due to the early curtailment of the third tier, Ihiekwe was afforded more time to recover and after an extended pre-season, he is back in contention for a starting place at the heart of Paul Warne’s defence.
“It’s obviously going to be different without fans but the lads are raring to go, we’ve had so long without football. It’ll be better with the fans but at the moment we’re all just looking forward to getting out and playing again,” Ihiekwe told www.themillers.co.uk.
“We’ve had a long pre-season and now I’m looking forward to kicking on and getting back to the same physical shape I was in last year.”
First up for Warne’s men is a trip to face fellow Sky Bet League One promotion-winners Wycombe Wanderers.
The hosts were promoted via the play-offs last term and the fixture at Adams Park will mark the Chairboys’ first ever match in England’s second tier.
And Ihiekwe is under no illusions over the scale of the challenge that he and his teammates face this weekend when they take on Gareth Ainsworth's side.
“It’s massive, the business starts now. It’s a tough game don’t get me wrong, but it’s also one we think we can go and do well in. We’re looking at it positively, it’ll be tough because we watched them against Brentford and they looked really fit and sharp,” Ihiekwe added.
“It’ll be tough but we’re looking forward to it. If we played this game a couple of months ago we’d see it as a really tough game.
“In League One, their place was one of the toughest to go to last season, so we’re going treat it as that, a really tough place to go and one where we’ll have to bring our ‘A-game.’”
The Millers played their first official game of the new campaign on Saturday and despite dominating for large periods of their clash with Salford City, they were beaten in the lottery of a penalty shootout at the Peninsula Stadium.
The Sky Bet League Two side took the lead from the penalty spot inside the final 10 minutes, but the visitors deservedly took the tie to spot-kicks thanks to Matt Crooks' injury-time equaliser.
Despite exiting this season’s Carabao Cup, Ihiekwe believes there were positives to take from the performance, as well as pointing out that there are areas for the team to improve.
“We can take a few positives from it but there’s parts of our games we need to improve if we want to have a good season,” Ihiekwe added.
“I think we were the better team on the whole but there were things that we didn’t do well enough to win the game so we’ve looked back at that and taken bits to improve on. Over the weekend there were a few shock results so there’s a few teams that haven’t quite got their rhythm back yet.
“There’s little bits where we can improve like building relationships with players around you. We’ve got a couple of new players so I think game time is important for that.
“You can do that on the training pitch but in a real game is where it really matters, again we can take the positives out of it but also, there’s stuff we can improve on.”