Defender Daniel Pudil believes a huge change to Sheffield Wedneday’s pre-season regime means they are ready to hit the ground running when the new Championship campaign kicks off tomorrow.
Pudil admits the Owls were lacking fitness at the start of last season under then-manager Carlos Carvahal and paid the price by flirting with the relegation places before recovering under new boss and Jos Luhukay to finish 15th.
But the Czech international has revealed summer preparations have been much tougher with Luhukay in charge and says the Wednesday squad are in great shape heading into their opening-day clash at Wigan Athletic.
“I think there is a massive difference between the last two pre-seasons,” he said. “The level is really hard and we had a double session every single day for three weeks.
“We have been working and running and getting fit for the season as we know that the Championship is hard, with 46 games and the two cups. Everybody looks sharp.
“I think we were not ready for last season as we were not working hard in the last couple pre-seasons, especially for me as I had the European Championships (2016) as well and started quite late.
“That is why I am glad we have had this type of pre-season. We want to start well.”
Pudil is likey to be one of a trio of centre-halves in a 3-5-2 formation for the Latics showdown and the player who turns 33 next month conceded that his days on the left flank as a full-back are probably over.
“I guess I will be part of the three at the back as since the new manager came (in January) we have talked about that,” he said.
“I am getting older as well and am an established player now and cannot do the left wing anymore because it is quite a hard job.
“So I know I am going to be among the three at the back. I don’t know if I will be on the left or in the middle. I don’t care. I want to be part of every single game, but that is up to the manager.”
Because of the constraints of Financial Fair Play regulations, Wednesday have made no signings since the end of last season. Pudil shrugged that off, concentrating instead on the number of key men who suffered long-term injuries last term but are now available for selection and the progresson of Academy prospects like Jordan Thorniley and Ash Baker.
Centre-half Tom Lees, midfielders Barry Bannan, George Boyd and Sam Hutchinson and centre-forward Steven Fletcher are back in the first-team fold, leaving only midfield duo Kieran Lee and Almen Abdi and striker Gary Hooper out of contention.
“We had 12 players injured who didn’t have the chance to play,” Pudil said. “For the manager, it is like he has so many new players because he did not see them play last season.
“We have confidence in our squad and I believe we can do well. When I came, we had a great two seasons in getting to the final and semi-finals (of the play-offs).
“Seasons like the last one can happen to anyone in the Championship. We know we have to do much better and everyone has been more focused on pre-season and the first game of the season.
“Since the new manager came, he has liked to play with the new players from the Academy. He has brought a couple into the first team and everyone has seen they can play well.
“We need them as well as the season is quite long and you need a big squad to achieve something.”