OXFORD United’s pre-season preparations are ramping up this week as the team puts in the hard yards at their Spanish base.

The U’s squad landed in Spain on Saturday, and will play a friendly against Portuguese second division side Academico de Viseu on Thursday.

Among those overseeing United’s players is first team coach Craig Short.

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Providing an insight into how the next few days will unfold in Spain, he said: “The lads nowadays come back in very good shape, so you can go straight into the football.

“It’s also good for new signings that come through the door, to get them acquainted with all their new teammates, and the players catch up with each other.

“There’s a real good group here and even when we had our difficult times last year, there was a good feeling in the way they stuck together.”

Short added: “We work alongside Luke [Taylor, head of athletic performance] and my brother Chris, and Dwayne [Peasah], because sports science has a lot of input of course.

“They don’t really close down in the summer, the sports science team, because they’re sending out stuff to the lads, who are very conscientious and know they have to do it.

“You’ve got to push yourself out of that comfort zone. We’re going to go another level now physically.

“That’ll come in Spain, with the heat. There’ll be double sessions, and my part is to design sessions alongside sports science, and make sure the players are getting plenty of touches of the ball, but also doing the hard work as well.

This is Oxfordshire:

“It’s intense, but I think most players enjoy pre-season. They’ll have their moments when it’s tough and physical, but it’s nice to feel physically fit.

“The programme in pre-season is designed to keep you stronger in February and March.

“We know how quickly the games come. In League One last year it was tough, but it’s going to be another level now. You have to prepare not just the physical side, but the mental side as well.”

Short also discussed the importance of Thursday’s game against Academico de Viseu, saying: “It’s to give the boys an introduction to playing football 11 v 11 again.

“You can try and recreate that amongst yourselves, but to do it professionally, and put shin pads on, have a referee, it gives them minutes and builds them up to the games towards the end of pre-season.

“I never felt fully fit until four or five league games in. No matter how many games you do or however hard you train in pre-season, I don’t think you get that full fitness and match sharpness until probably three, four, five games in. I’ve heard a lot of lads say that.”