GEOFF CAMERON believes his first year experiences in the Barclays Premier League will help him to improve even further this year . . . as he looks to cement a regular starting role in the side under new boss Mark Hughes.
The American international admits to feeling refreshed following what he describes as a 'short but essential break', having played competitive football for the best part of 18 months for Houston Dyanmo, Stoke City and the United States.
The Boston-born star returned back to the Club's Clayton Wood Training Ground to kick-off his pre-season training on Monday after being granted extended leave following his international commitments in late May and early June.
"It was a long year for me - especially with the transition I made from MLS to Premier League, and then of course all of the matches on the international front too, it was a very tough season for me physically," the 28-year-old told Stoke City Player.
"I thought that I came through it all pretty well, but truth be told the fatigue probably did catch up with me a little bit towards the end of the season, but hopefully with this little break behind me now and a full season over here, I'll be looking to improve again and push on.
"The nerves won't be there next season because I have a full year behind me now, I have played in all of the stadiums against all of the players and hopefully I will be as fit and as sharp as I can possibly be. I'm really looking forward to the season now."
Cameron, who earned himself many plaudits during his first season with the Club, admits to being impressed by what he has seen from Mark Hughes and his managerial staff in training during the course of the week.
"I think they are fantastic," he added. "I'm really enjoying the work that we are doing in training and the ideas that the management have are very football orientated, and that is something that I particularly enjoy.
"I like to get the ball down on the floor and keep hold of it, and it looks like this is the way that they want us to go about things next season which is exciting.
"In terms of fitness I feel fine, despite coming back a week later than the other lads. It was only four weeks ago that I actually finished playing having had the five games for the US through the summer, so to be honest I feel as fit and as strong now, as I did back then."
A trip back to his homeland is next on the cards for the defender and his Stoke City teammates as they embark on a ten-day tour of the US, which includes pre-season friendly matches against his former side Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas and Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia Union.
"I'm excited for it - especially going back to Houston where a lot of my friends and teammates are. I actually went there in the summer on vacation to catch up with the guys, but I'm sure this time it will be a lot more intense and the work will be hard.
"That's what pre-season is all about though - building up the fitness levels and putting the things that we are learning out on the training pitches into practice in matches against three very good MLS sides.
"In terms of their fitness levels they are half way through the season so they will be right at the top of their game, so it is going to be a great test for us all."