Keeper Tom Heaton was relieved to get his first pre-season outing under his belt on Tuesday night.
Heaton, who signed a new three-year deal last week after starting every Championship game last season, hadn’t featured in the first four warm-up games after picking up a calf strain in training.
And with competition stiffer at Turf Moor after the summer arrival of Scotland international Matt Gilks on a free transfer from Blackpool, the former Cardiff and Bristol City man was eager to get back out onto the pitch.
He was tested as well during an entertaining 90 minutes against Celta Vigo, who finished ninth in the Primera Liga in Spain last season, and he admitted: “It was a huge relief as you don’t want to go too long.
“I’ve been back in training for a week. I had two weeks training before I had the injury.
“I had a slight calf strain, but you have to be careful with these things, it was quite minor, but you can’t come back too soon.
“To be honest, I was only out for two weeks but it felt like a lifetime, and it was so frustrating and it was difficult because it was at a time when we had quite a few games, but it adds more to the motivation when you come back, and I couldn’t be happier than getting 90 minutes under my belt.”
Heaton had a year remaining on his contract after his debut season, with the option of a third season, but was delighted to agree new terms last week, on the back of 19 clean sheets on the way to promotion to the Premier League: “There were discussions the back end of last season with the manager and the club, and obviously from my point of view I was absolutely delighted, I couldn’t be happier.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it last year, really enjoyed playing for the manager and staff and working with the goalkeeping coach Billy Mercer, so I was over the moon to sign and couldn’t be happier and looking forward to keeping developing and performing again this season.”
Signing the deal, joining the likes of Sam Vokes, Kieran Trippier, Scott Arfield and Ben Mee in agreeing fresh terms over the last few months, shows Heaton is happy with the direction the club is heading in, and he explained: “From top to bottom it was excellent last season, and the ingredients are there again to go again.
“We need to make sure we get it right and go about it in the right manner, but we certainly look like we have put the foundations of that in place in pre-season and hopefully we can rattle a few cages this season.
“I can’t wait for it, the excitement is brewing, the lads are in fantastic shape, chomping at the bit, and wecan hopefully hit the ground running and give it everything we’ve got.
“We’ll keep pushing the standard and try and kick on again.”
Heaton is out to retain his place in the starting line-up amid competition from Gilks and Alex Cisak, and he feels that can only be positive: “It’s excellent, obviously Gilksy and big Al Cisak, it’s been fantastic, the goalkeeping department is fresh again, and it’s all good.
“It can only benefit the club. I’m enjoying it, and I think Gilksy and Al are as well, I think it will be good for everyone.”