SHAUN Maloney is champing at the bit to get back in for pre-season training this week – to pick up where he left off last term.
The Wigan Athletic forward was one of the key components in last year’s Great Escape, the upturn in fortunes over the last couple of months coinciding with his recall to the side.
Prior to March, Maloney had endured a largely-frustrating debut campaign at Wigan after his August arrival from Celtic.
But his blistering end to the year – and the prospect of a proper pre-season under his belt – means he cannot wait for next month’s big kick-off.
“I was obviously in the team for the last couple of months and it was a great end for me personally as well as the team,” Maloney told the Observer. “It’s given me determination to try and pick up next season in the same vein.
“Obviously the start we had wasn’t great, and there were long periods before and after Christmas where we weren’t at it, and we all know we have to be better than that next year.
“It’s certainly given me the aspirations to try and start next year with a bang and try to make more of an impact over a longer period than last season.”
In-form Maloney was only just getting going when the season came to an end in May, with Latics having racked up an impressive seven wins from their last nine matches.
“It would have been nice to have kept going, so we could have kept up the momentum, but you also need a few weeks off to recharge the batteries,” he recognised.
“Once the season starts we just need to pick up where we left off in terms of intensity, work-rate and desire.
“If we can do that then we’ll win a lot more games than we’ll lose.”
Wigan’s Champions League form over the finishing straight raised the tantalising prospect of what could be achieved with greater consistency of performance.
Maloney, though, is refusing to get carried away. “I think talk of challenging for Europe is probably a little bit unrealistic, “ he added.
“We finished where we deserved to because of our bad start.
“We just have to hope we can start better next season, and if we do that we can certainly aim to finish a lot higher.”