STOKE CITY’S marathon man Jonathan Walters may feel as though he has hardly stopped running since last season began almost twelve months to the day . . . but he has been quick out of the blocks in the build-up to the current campaign.
Two goals in as many pre-season appearances on the current tour of the United States have signalled his intentions as he aims to build upon last season’s success and erase the disappointment of the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 downfall.
Walters was on target in the meetings with Columbus Crew and Orlando City, the second of which was a smart volley which proved to be the winner, so he will endeavour to continue that productive start against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday.
The way in which he has stamped his mark on the trip to the States shows that there is no hangover from Ireland’s performance in the Euro 2012 Finals, both in terms of the performance and the fact that he has hardly had a break this summer.
Indeed, as the 28-year-old striker told Stoke City Player, he is determined to bounce back from that setback both with his club and country this season.
“It was bitterly disappointing the way we performed at the Euros; probably even more so for those of us who got the chance to play in our first major international tournament. But it just didn’t happen for us,” commented Walters.
“What made it so much harder for us all was that the support we received from our fans out there was unreal. I have never seen anything like it.
“Now though, we want to get back to another tournament and the journey begins very soon when the World Cup qualifying campaign gets underway.”
Walters and club colleague Glenn Whelan had a shorter summer break than most of the other City players due to the Euro 2012 Finals, but they were thrust back into action just 24 hours after their return when they lined up against Columbus Crew.
“In many respects, it’s made it a little easier, certainly for myself, to get going again because you don’t lose as much match fitness,” he added.
“We have retained a reasonable level of fitness and been able to pick up the pace at a time when there is so much emphasis on that in our pre-season work.
“We trained every day, and sometimes twice, for a four and a half week period leading up to and during the Euros and we also played six matches as well.
“Mind you, it has seemed as though we have been back a month already here, even though it’s been little more than a week for Glenn and myself.
“It’s all about the fitness at the moment and it’s been very tough at times because of the heat and humidity, and the change to our body clocks.
“So while it might be nice to get on the scoresheet, and long may that continue, the main focus is on being ready for the first game against Reading.
“The next step is the game in Kansas City, which will be even tougher than the other two because they are going well in their League, and it is even hotter out here than it was in either Columbus or Orlando, although this is a dry heat.”