"It's only the third day, but I'm already at my limit," joked defender Kazuyoshi Mikami when asked about Saturday's session at the Omiya Ardija pre-season training camp. "Well, of course we have goals for this year and you need mental strength to make the kinds of improvements that are necessary to reach those targets. The best thing to do is just to try and keep clearing individual hurdles, one by one.
"And one of my own personal things is that I want to get better, more accurate, at crossing the ball from the left-hand side - trying to time things better to coincide with team-mates' runs, that sort of thing. This season, in order to get better, this camp provides the basis of what we're going to try and achieve, so we have to be prepared to put a lot of work in now."
New keeper Nobuhisa Kobayashi looms out of the darkness
22-year-old rookie goalkeeper Nobuhisa Kobayashi, meanwhile, is participating in his first-ever pre-season as a new pro, fresh from the International Budo University in Chiba. "I'm very conscious of entering the professional arena from my university side," he said. "Taking part in the first few practices, I really notice the difference in power. When I got the offer to sign for Omiya, though, I was really shocked - the idea of playing as a pro had never seemed really possible until then.
"But now I'm here and in Guam with the other players, trying little by little to learn more about what it means to be a professional footballer. I remember watching the Emperor's Cup semi-final against Urawa last year and getting the impression that Omiya were a team who didn't give up. What I think I can contribute to the club is general strength, and an ability to deal with high balls into the area. I'm obviously hoping to improve now I'm on this camp."