Craig Bryson is desperate to make up for lost time after describing his injury-disrupted first year at Aberdeen as the toughest spell of his career.
The 33-year-old netted his first goal in a Dons shirt during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Hibernian in a behind closed doors friendly at Pittodrie.
An ankle injury meant the former Derby County midfielder made only five league starts last season and 12 appearances overall.
But the three-times capped Scotland international is feeling optimistic ahead of this Saturday’s Scottish Premiership curtain-raiser against Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
He said: “I’m getting there.
“It has been quite well documented that I have had a tough time since I first came to the club with an ankle injury. I did it here against St Johnstone (in a 1-1 draw on September 14).
“It has been a long time and probably the hardest time in my career.
“I have been trying to get back fit. You try everything you can and you get to a stage where you are not sure what is going to work.
“Finally, we have found a routine that is working for me.
“I have done a lot of pre-season and I am starting to feel like myself again.
“I’m going into games like on Saturday worrying about football rather than worrying about my body.”
Bryson was pleased to hit the back of the net for the first time as an Aberdeen player but admits it will take time to get used to playing competitive games without fans.
He said: “I wish I had saved the goal for this Saturday rather than it being in pre-season.
“Fingers crossed, it is a taster for the season starting.
“The atmosphere is strange, even in the changing room you only have the starting 11.
“It is weird but we have had a couple of games to get used to it.
“I think all of the lads will be fine when the competitive games start.
“They just need to get the head down as when you are playing you have to block out the crowd anyway so maybe it will help us.
“The match against Rangers should be a good game.
“We will see how it goes.
“It will be a bit different without any fans here.
“Everybody is looking forward to it.
“We have had a good pre-season and we are ready to go.”
On a personal level, Bryson hopes his injury problems are behind him and he will get the opportunity to show the Aberdeen support what he can do.
He added: “The target is the same as when I first came to the club, I just want to play as many games as possible.
“Fingers crossed that can happen this season and I can stay injury free.
“Hopefully we can have a good season with a good run in Europe and the cups and see what happens.”