Hello from the Algarve, Portugal, where we're approaching the last few days of a gruelling 2018/19 pre-season camp.
This one is more important than ever for me personally. A year ago, I felt preparations for the campaign here went well. That then showed when I appeared in all of our six opening games of last season.
I was enjoying the best spell of my career. It was the moment I'd worked so hard for all my life – starting games on a regular basis for Aston Villa.
The goal against Norwich City at home was an obvious high point. Then, in the goalless draw with Brentford just a few weeks later, that momentum was brought to a halt. I limped off with a hamstring problem and later had surgery that would leave me sidelined for months.
The physical repercussions were obvious – I feared sprinting at full speed for a long time. The mental ones were also tough to deal with. It was a big set back, just as things were taking off.
My recovery was a lengthy process, but I did at least get back in time to win the Premier League Cup with the U23s towards the end of last term. That was special for me. I'd grown up with all of those players and to win something together was a fantastic moment.
It was a good end to a frustrating campaign overall. And while everyone else went away for their summer break, I continued training hard and making sure I was in the best physical condition possible.
I went to Dubai for a little while, but most of my pre-season consisted of working towards peak fitness.
Now, I'm continuing to work hard on a daily basis here in Portugal. We're being pushed, but I'm finally feeling good in myself again and can look forward to the season with some optimism.
The average day consists of meeting for breakfast around 8am, before heading out to the training fields for our first session at 9am.
That can last anything up to two hours, before we head back to the hotel to shower and grab lunch. We then chill out until late afternoon, before either another training session or perhaps some pool recovery work.
It's tough going, but for sure we'll now be ready for the upcoming friendly games and the start of the Championship season.
On a side note, I've had a feel of our new home and aways strips and can't wait to pull them on this weekend.
I've been a Villa fan all my life and in the Academy since a young age, and to see a truer shade of claret return to the jersey is a great thing. That's my favourite thing about it.
The rubberised crest is also a cool feature, while the away kit is nice and retro.
I have to say, even the return of 32Red to the shirt brings back a lot of memories. I'd have been in the Academy last time they featured as front-of-shirt sponsor, so it's a nice little nod to the past.
All things considered, it's the best kit we've had for a long time. I'm hoping to wear it a lot, and that it can also transpire into my best year yet.