Anthony Charles is heading into the 2012/13 season with a renewed enthusiasm for football, having spent this time last year on the sidelines due to injury and without a contract.
The defender was facing six months out after damaging his knee in Aldershot Town’s final game of the campaign against Lincoln City, and was then subsequently released by the Hampshire club.
This year is not clouded by that uncertainty. Charles has secured a one-year deal with Northampton Town after impressing in a short-term contract at the end of last season, and he cannot wait for the League Two campaign to begin.
“It's a turnaround compared to how it was last year,” said the 31-year-old. “I knew I was going to be out injured because of my knee and it has been a year since that, so it is nice to get a good pre-season.
“I appreciate playing more now because I'm a little bit older and you don't last forever as a footballer.
"I knew I had to improve my fitness - that was the main aim and after you've improved your fitness you step on from that. After you've been out from any injury you have to do that and make sure that it has been done.
“I'm happy to be here, I just want to play games and when you are out injured you appreciate and fall back in love with the game. You want to play every game, you get the rustiness out of you in pre-season and you push on into the season after that."
Charles has certainly got what he hoped for in terms of playing more football, having played the full 90 minutes in all of the Cobblers’ pre-season friendlies alongside Kelvin Langmead in the centre of defence.
The pair are unlikely to feature when a Northampton XI travel to Kettering Town tonight, and while Charles admits that at times it has been hard playing that much in pre-season he believes that him and Langmead will benefit from the extended run-outs.
He said: "It can tire you out. It's hard because we haven't got the biggest of squads at the minute and we need personnel, but the minutes are beneficial and sometimes it has been lighter for us in training, which has helped.
“Usually in pre-season you build up, but we've been thrown in and played 90 minutes each game. Sometimes it shows on the pitch when you are very tired, and you have to start again, dust yourself down and get on with it because you have to do it.
"Playing 90 minutes together, we're going to have a good understanding and it's quite important for centre halves to get on well and understand each others games. We're getting that and as it rolls on we'll hope to improve and show that even more so."