Gary Cahill has revealed that he took his training regime into his own hands, to prevent a 'freak season' under Maurizio Sarri scuppering a move away from Chelsea.
The centre half's farewell season at Stamford Bridge resulted in just two Premier League appearances and six in other competitions, even though he was still club captain.
Yet Cahill was determined to remain sharp enough to present an attractive proposition to other top-flight clubs.
Yet Cahill was determined to remain sharp enough to present an attractive proposition to other top-flight clubs, revealing in an interview with the Sunday Times: "I was in a bit of a no man's land. I spoke to the manager and told him I’ll be doing a lot more work and if I play, I will tail that off.
"Selfishly, I needed to be at a level where I could go [leave Chelsea]. I can’t afford to have two or three months out of the game and then expect to pick it up in the Premier League."
For Cahill, this meant creating his own training schedule that matched the intensity of competitive action as closely as possible. Training with the first team was supplemented with extra fitness work on both the pitch and in the gym.
Speaking of last season, he refers to "knowing I have to work harder than I was doing in the training sessions" which meant he "needed to keep the sharp stuff. It’s easy to do an 8km run at one pace but, as a footballer, that’s not what we need in games, you need to load your legs up to reach crosses."
The hard yards paid off and he secured a transfer to Crystal Palace in the summer - reuniting him with his former England manager Roy Hodgson - and Cahill is happy to be back playing regular Premier League action.
He added: "My aim was always to get back playing regularly. Last year was a freak season. For the majority of my career I’ve played football week in week out."
"It’s probably my mental strength and that’s something I’m proud of... I just saw it as a blip and for me to get back on track and playing at the level I should be, I needed to be topped up.
"I knew I would get back playing and I knew I would be at the top level, the Premier League."