City midfielder Mark Fotheringham is busily hoping that a full and testing pre-season can provide just the platform he needs to firmly establish himself in Peter Grant's first team plans.
With Dickson Etuhu out of the door and a question mark still lingering over Youssef Safri, the one-time Celtic starlet knows there might just be more room at the inn for him this season – even the recent arrival of on-loan Chelsea youngster Jimmy Smith has failed to dampen Fotheringham's hopes for the new campaign.
And, in fairness, he did very little wrong in the opening tour game against Apeldoorn on Saturday afternoon and with Julien Brellier still struggling to shrug off the thigh strain he sustained in his first and only 45 minutes thus far against King's Lynn, Fotheringham could be presented with another chance to shine in tomorrow night's clash with FC Zwolle.
“I'm feeling quite good this year,” said the 23-year-old. “The programme that Dave Carolan gave us was really tough, so basically I just stuck to that and I'm feeling quite strong in the games. It's been hard work – but that's what pre-seasons are all about.”
It is something that Fotheringham appears determined to use to his advantage after arriving in Norfolk in January less than fresh from a four-week spell seeking pastures new after splitting with the Swiss club Aarau.
“I feel really fit because of the programme – and I've not had any knocks going into pre-season this year whereas when I came over from Switzerland, I'd come off a four-week winter break and I never really had a base to kick on.
“I'm naturally quite fit anyway, so I was able to get straight into the games which was good. But I'd have liked to have had a bit of training and a bit of base-work before going into the games.”
This summer and he's getting both – plus the chance to mix and mingle with the seven new faces in City's midst. That particular process has been helped by Peter Grant's decision to juggle around the room shares. Best pals have been split up in the quest for team building. Word has it that it is Jason Shackell with the Czech phrasebook by his bedside.
“The gaffer's done a thing where we're all sharing rooms with different players than we usually are – which is good because you get a chance to have a good chat with the boys. But, to be honest, the lads have really settled in well anyway,” said Fotheringham, with David Strihavka the one for whom the culture shock is probably the greatest. By all accounts, his English – albeit of the Anglo-Saxon dressing room variety – is coming on as the 6ft 2in striker starts to find his feet, if not yet the goals.
“The big man speaks quite good English and it's been good to play with him. He links up really well with the midfield and it's to have that option as a target man there – and it's nice having Chris Brown back as well. He looks like a new player again with his injuries,” said Fotheringham, clearly in his element playing continental-style football into feet. His bigger test will come if he bumps into a Kevin Nicholls at Deepdale.
“It's good to play different teams from the continent and I really enjoy playing that style of football where it's very technical and the players are looking to pass it,” said Fotheringham, likely to get another chance to strut his stuff against Zwolle tomorrow.
“Wednesday will be a tough contest as well as Dutch teams tend to play really fast, passing games which will be a good test for us. But I'm enjoying it – it's been really hard work, but it's been enjoyable.
“It's good to get away; a change of scenery and stuff; get a bit of banter going with the boys and that – and with the training and the games as well.”
His aim remains very simple – to figure large in Grant's thinking come August 11.
“Definitely – I'm not thinking any further than that,” he said. “People always mention when there's international weekends whether you're looking at Scotland, but my aim this year is just to go out and enjoy it. Be in and around the squad and play as many games as I can.”
He appears to have had a happy landing back in the United Kingdom after his various foreign forays – first with Freiburg in the Bundesliga and then onto Aarau.
“I'm really enjoying it – I'm glad to get my new contract sorted out and I really like it here, especially with the bunch of boys that we've got and the gaffer, Jim Duffy and all that.”
It may just be the case that in his foreign wanderings Fotheringham got a chance to realise just what life is like without those blessed with such talents; that while he may have broken into the Celtic first team at the tender age of 16, football still doesn't owe him a living. For that he has to graft.
“You've got to enjoy it – you could be out there doing worse jobs than what we're doing…”
myfootballwriter's pre-season tour is sponsored by aggbag.co.uk
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