This time last year George Baldock was in the middle of a loan spell with IBV – now he is ready for one of the most gruelling parts of life as a professional footballer.
Pre-season training is dreaded by every player, and the Dons now have three days of training under their belt. However, worse is to come for the men from MK1 as they head to Ireland for an exhausting fitness camp which will see them undertake three sessions a day.
“I’m expecting a lot of hard work in Ireland.” George told mkdons.com, adding: “I did it two years ago and it was really tough, Damien doesn’t give you an inch he is always pushing you. Everyone out there will get pushed to the limit. It’s a long trip, a lot of sessions and it’s very hard.”
George spent most of last season away on loans with IBV and Blue Square Premier side Tamworth, before returning to the Dons to make two appearances at the back-end of the campaign.
The close-season break offered the 20-year-old the chance to knuckle down, work on his fitness and, although still in the very early days, he has been reaping the rewards since linking up with his team-mates on Monday.
“It’s obviously nice to come in and see all the lads. It’s been quite a while since I've seen a few of them but the hard work is intense because it's been so long since we've done that level of training. I am getting back in the swing of things now and it’s nice to actually get some work done.
“I only had one week where I want abroad with my mates and had a bit of a blast-out, I also went away with my brother but we kept ticking over and I kept to Damo’s plan. I’m reaping the benefits of it now, I’ve come back and I’m feeling quite fit, my body fat has gone down too so it just shows that if you stick to the plan you have been given you can achieve the fitness.
“You have to be mentally strong in pre-season because you’re always going to have little niggles and tired legs during this time, it’s hard to get through that barrier.”
It isn’t just total fitness that George wants to achieve this summer; he plans on using the busy pre-season schedule as an opportunity to impress Karl Robinson.
He added: “I’m a young member of the squad so there is pressure on me because I want to get in the team; I have to keep impressing in training, in pre-season games. It’s almost twice the amount of pressure for the young lads in pre-season, but it is something I thrive on, something I enjoy.
“I’ve always said I needed that time out on loan, I went into the Conference and it was a very physically demanding League. It’s nice to be seen as an MK Dons player, it’s quite a small squad and quite a young squad too so there are definitely chances to push for a place. The important thing is to take your chance when it comes and have a little bit of luck along the way.
“The Gaffer has been really fair in the last few pre-seasons by giving the youngsters game time and this year there are quite a few big games on the big stage at the stadium, so if you impress in those it makes it difficult to be ignored.
“I want to be in the first team, if I’m not in the starting XI I want to be first or second sub, I’ve got Darren Potter and Stephen Gleeson in ahead of me, they are fantastic players who are important to the Club so it is going to be hard to dislodge them but stranger things have happened.”