PAUL HORTON cannot wait to put back on his whites and get involved in some intense cricket action for Lancashire.
After spending the two previous winters in Zimbabwe, the opening batsman opted to have a break at the end of last season so that he could have a full pre-season with Lancashire ahead of the domestic campaign which gets underway in April.
He spent Christmas back in his native Australia to see family and friends, and he knows the rest has 'freshened' him up.
He said: "I had two first-class seasons in Zimbabwe, so adding those on to my two full seasons with Lancs meant that I had condensed four seasons in to two. It's gruelling but part of the job and I accept that.
"It was nice to have the break and good to rest the body, but now it's back to the hard work. It has freshened me up.
"I was fortunate enough to be allowed to go away but now I've got to repay that faith with the way I train now."
Horton returned to Old Trafford's Indoor Cricket Centre at the start of the week and was immediately put through his paces, along with his team-mates, by the Club's new Strength and Conditioning Coach Phil Scott.
He added: "We've got a new trainer in Phil and there are some new ideas and concepts. It's an exciting time but the hard work starts here!
"The first week back has been great. It's been a good shock to the system but it's nice to be back with the lads."
The squad has changed somewhat since last season with Sajid Mahmood and Gary Keedy moving on to pastures new, but with the recruitment of Kabir Ali and Simon Katich, plus Alex Davies, Gavin Griffiths, Luis Reece and Arron Lilley all turning signing professional terms, Horton believes the competition for places will serve the Club well.
"In the perfect world you would have competition for every place and that will keep everybody on their toes," he said. "Sometimes that doesn't happen due to the nature of the squad or for financial reasons. We've had a small squad for the last couple of seasons. It's a bit bigger this season and we've had some changes in personnel which freshens up things. There is definitely competition and nobody is guaranteed a starting place. This creates an intensity in training and in everything we do."
Horton reiterated the team's desire to bounce back into Division One of the County Championship and also to progress in the shorter forms of the game.
He added: "Our job is to win trophies, and the feeling of winning the Championship was something we really enjoyed. We haven't won a one day trophy for a while, so it will be nice to win some more silverware and that is what we are all aiming to do.
"Our goal is to win Division 2. That is all we can do. We will try and set out to win every competition, just as we do every year. It won't be easy and will be a tough slog. Last season we were the defending champions and everyone wanted to beat us. This coming season, teams will want to come and play well against us. They will see us as a big scalp.
"There will be challenges for us all. It's an exciting time but also a good challenge for us."
Photo (c) Simon Pendrigh
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