A season long loan with League Two play-off runners up Northampton Town put hunger in the belly of 20-year-old goalkeeper Lee Nicholls after playing in every league game for the club in the 2012/13 campaign.
Pre-season for the coming season back at Wigan Athletic has whet his appetite even more, Nicholls explains:
“It’s been my busiest and most active pre-season since I’ve been at the club and being around the first team so much has been a great experience.
“It’s been great to have Scott (Carson) arrive at the club because now we’ve got another top class goalkeeper and for myself it’s great to learn from people like Scott, Ali (Al Habsi) and Mike (Pollitt).”
Nicholls completed two and a half games during pre-season and was happy with the level of competition, saying:
“The full game I played in America against Pittsburgh was a good experience because of what the trip was like and the team we played kept me on my toes.
“They were really up for the game and quite sharp because their season is in full swing.”
On his return to England, Nicholls face Greek Super League side Atromitos and made a string of impressive saves against former Burnley striker and 2004 European Championship winner Dimitrios Papadopoulos, another game the Liverpool-born keeper marks down as experience.
“The game against Atromitos was very competitive and it was great preparation not just for the league but for the Europa League as well.”
Despite a 51-game season under his belt at Sixfields with Northampton last season, Nicholls expressed that he understands patience will be crucial this season.
“On a personal level this season is a very exciting one for me because I want to work hard to get chances in the first team.
“As a young goalkeeper you have to be patient because we’ve only got one space in the team up for grabs.
“There are a lot of games this season with us being in the Europa League so hopefully I’ll get my chance sooner or later to make my competitive debut for the club.”
Nicholls’ experience last season in League Two has given him an insight to what it’s like to play in the Football League and he said the structure of teams in that division are similar to those in the Championship, adding:
“Most teams in League Two are modelled on how Championship teams are built.
“They want to play football but their main aim is to work extremely hard in games, which is something we’re going to have to do this season but also be aware of from the teams we play.
“There are lots of tests in the Football League because teams tend to have a big man up front and they like to run the channels, they’re just a few of the things you think of as a goalkeeper.”
On a final note Nicholls outlined his aims for the coming season:
“My hopes for the season are that as a team we’ll push for promotion and on a personal level I’d like to be able to look at the season as successful one with some games under my belt.”
There will be four more Countdown to Kick Off interviews this week as we gear up for the opening day of the season away at Barnsley’s Oakwell Stadium.
For more information on tickets for the Barnsley game [click here].