Centre-back Curtis Davies is relishing the “air of excitement” around Derby County’s squad, heading into Friday night’s opening Sky Bet Championship trip to Sunderland.
The Rams kick off the new campaign with a televised showdown at the Stadium of Light against the relegated Black Cats (7.45pm kick-off).
Davies endured the drop last season, too, with former club Hull City.
But he has been reinvigorated by his close-season move from the Tigers to Derby.
“There’s an air of excitement and all the hard work during pre-season, as much as it isn’t fun running around, it’s all for a goal,” said 32-year-old Davies.
“That goal is in sight and it’s an exciting first game for us and hopefully it’s one we can win.
“I think we’re ready for the season now; we have had enough games and got the fitness in our legs.
“We’ve done all the hard work and there’s no excuses now, everyone wants to get going and prove how good we are.
The Rams suffered a second successive pre-season defeat when going down 2-1 at home to Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim last weekend.
But Davies told Rams TV that the testing match was an ideal help in the build-up to the Sunderland visit.
“We were up against a team that will be playing in the Champions League qualifiers and are very organised,” he added.
“It was tough to get at them and I don’t think we touched the ball for the first five minutes!
“We got to grips with it and gave them a good game in the end.
“It seemed that extra bit of quality won them the game and it was our toughest test of pre-season without a doubt.
“I actually think it’s the type of game that we needed because it was a bit of a shock to the system and we are going to be stronger for it.”