A YEAR ago, Wanderers’ pre-season had been low key, brief even, but this time Dougie Freedman was keen to hike up the work-load on his players.

The number of pre-season friendlies for the first team doubled from four to eight and the players were called back even earlier to report for individual training programmes issued by the club’s medical staff.

One of the chief reasons for the extra work was to avoid the slow start that wrecked last season, where a run of just one win in 13 games represented the worst start for more than a century.

Quirkily, the most prestigious opponents were up first.

Danish giants Brondby had been through some tough times in recent years but their slick stadium in the suburbs of Copenhagen provided the stage for an encouraging start for the Whites.

Johan Elmander, Wanderers’ club record signing at £8.2million, had arrived back at Brondby via Toulouse, Bolton, Galatasaray and Norwich, to a hero’s welcome in Denmark.

Travelling fans were less forgiving – a sour taste left in their mouth after his exit for nothing to Turkey three summers earlier.

Inevitably it was the Swede who opened the scoring with a cross-shot but the manner in which Freedman’s side rallied to get themselves back into it was a good base to build on.

Jermaine Beckford missed a penalty but Craig Davies made no such mistake when he arrived as a second half substitute.

On to a smaller venue in Slagelse they went, and though Liam Feeney scored his first goal in Whites colours to seal the win, it was a much scrappier affair.

Rob Hall was sent off for a silly late challenge in a game that had a rather tempestuous edge to it.

Between the games, Wanderers had been training triple and double sessions at their small base on the edge of Malmo.

The Burlov training ground was flanked by a shopping mall and a circus but on the pitch it was definitely no fun and games.

Freedman worked exhaustively getting his side to be more flexible in shape and more dynamic and incisive with the ball.

And in the first 15 minutes of the next friendly at Swedish club Mjallby, it all seemed to be coming together.

Rob Hall and Jermaine Beckford gave the Whites an early 2-0 lead but from out of nowhere a succession of individual errors allowed the home side to score three unanswered goal before the break.

By the second half, the exertions of the last 10 days were telling and they ended the trip on a low note.

Those same problems with fatigue looked to have affected matters at Macclesfield in the first game back on English soil.

Zach Clough rescued a draw with a strike nine minutes from time but with many of his first teamers rested at Moss Rose, Freedman was not about to panic.

Rochdale, managed by Boltonian Keith Hill, provided stiff opposition next at Spotland, playing some attractive possession football.

Wanderers were not at their flowing best but the organisation through midfield and the back four was a clear improvement on last season.

Neil Danns and Conor Wilkinson scored to give the Whites a 2-0 win.

Tranmere also proved difficult opponents despite Merseysider Jay Spearing giving Freedman’s side an early lead with a drilled shot from the edge of the box.

Wanderers struggled to keep hold of the ball enough in Tranmere territory, highlighting the need for a bit more physical presence up front, and ended up conceding an equaliser to Eliot Richards.

If 90 minutes at Prenton Park had caused the grumbles to start again, things soon got better at Port Vale.

Again, it was a far from complete performance for Wanderers – but with an experimental back three they took a first-half lead through Matt Mills’ header.

Chung-Yong Lee made his first start after the World Cup and proved the most enterprising player on the night.

But the headlines were stolen by Andy Lonergan – imperious in goal – and Jermaine Beckford, whose second-half thunderbolt made the game safe despite a late Vale consolation.