Aaron Downes is hoping to make his Chesterfield FC comeback after being sidelined for 18 months with a knee injury.
The Spireites central defender, who last played first-team football in February, 2010, is eyeing the friendly clash at Blue Square Bet North title winners Alfreton Town as a possible stage for his return.
The Australian-born crowd favourite said: “I’ve had two operations since my injury at Port Vale and my pre-season build-up has being going very well so far.
“After winning the championship most of the lads went off on holiday, which they deserved, but I was in much of the time with fitness coach Shane Nicholson and physio Jamie Hewitt working hard and it would be great to play some part on Friday.’’
Downes, 26, joined Chesterfield in 2004 and has played more than 180 games for the Blues. His knee problems began when he fell awkwardly in the clash against Darlington in April, 2009.
After a cruciate ligament operation he was out of action until February, 2010, but his comeback lasted just seven matches when the knee problem flared up again.
It has been an extremely frustrating time for Downes who is relishing the prospect of playing again after signing an extended one-year contract.
He said: “I did not even get on the bench last year but training is beginning to step up and my aim is to be available for selection for the first match of the season at Tranmere Rovers.
“I’m hoping it will be like a new centre half coming into the club.’’
Another man looking to make an impact is Jamie Lowry. The midfielder has also recovered from a knee injury and made three substitute appearances in the second-half of last season when John Sheridan’s men captured the League Two laurels.
At the start of the 2009/10 season, Lowry, 24, was the team’s designated penalty-taker and before the end of September he had scored six goals.
Meanwhile, team boss Sheridan believes a thorough pre-season build-up is extremely important for every player.
He said: “It is vital. If you do not do it, you get found out. The players may not like it but it is for their benefit.
“It takes three to four weeks to get them fit and then they get ready for the first game of the season. I want us to be fit because taking care of the ball is the most important thing. We will be playing better opposition and if you give possession away cheaply you will get punished.’’
Meanwhile, season tickets holders have until tomorrow to collect their new SmartCards for the 2011/12 season, and to get the two pre-season games against Coventry City (Tuesday, July 26, ko 7.45pm) and Hull City (Saturday, July 30, ko 3pm) uploaded to guarantee getting their own seats.
Match tickets for these two games will then go on general sale from Monday. Legends and Vice Presidents will also be able to collect their tickets for next season from Monday.
In addition to the friendly at Alfreton, Chesterfield are scheduled to play at Matlock Town on Tuesday (ko 7.45pm) and at Staveley MW on Wednesday (ko 7.30pm).