GARY Rowett says his Burton Albion team could "start the season now" after being impressed with their fitness levels this summer.
The Brewers have played four pre-season games so far, as well as taking in warm-weather training in Portugal.
The majority of the first-team players have had a full 90 minutes under their belt from the midweek games against Hednesford Town and Mickleover Sports, as well as game-time in the first two friendlies against Ilkeston and Sheffield United.
"I remarked to one of the staff the other day that we looked as though we could start the season now if we needed to," said Rowett.
"The players would get through the games, which is great."
The fitness was especially evident in the dying minutes of Tuesday night's 2-0 win against the Nailmen, when Phil Edwards made a charge upfield to score an 87th-minute second goal
"I thought it was a very good first-half performance and the challenge in the second-half when they brought on some fresher legs was to maintain that intensity," said Rowett.
"About 65-70 minutes I thought maybe we were going to tail off a little bit, but we dug in and kept going.
"I think all those runs they made pre-season and that physical work we've done means we're a fitter side.
"You see people still making those lung-busting runs – Phil made that run into the box and I don't know how he got there but he scored the goal."
Edwards' strike added to an impressive pre-season tally – Lucas Akins having proven his goal-scoring pedigree with two strikes – and Rowett is pleased with Albion's cutting edge.
"If you look back to last pre-season, we hardly scored and didn't create many chances," said Rowett.
"Already this season, we look like we've got more attacking options.
"It doesn't guarantee we're going to score more goals, but at the moment you'd say Stuart Beavon looks very, very lively, Gurks (Adam McGurk) looks in good physical condition, Lucas Akins looks like he'll score goals and Macca (Alex MacDonald) looks much fitter and brighter than last season.
"With Dom Knowles, Billy Kee and Marcus Harness we've got some really good options, but it's just a small step towards where we want to be."