AFTER a challenging close-season, York City full-back Sean Newton is looking forward to testing himself against some high-quality opposition at the LNER Community Stadium.

City have had a near five-month hiatus thrust on them following the declaration of a null-and-void season in February of this year.

Combined with coronavirus restrictions, this has left players with a long time in which to balance keeping themselves in trim and not overdoing it while being unable to train as usual.

Newton himself has been meeting up for runs with centre-back partner and fellow Scouser Matty Brown to achieve the former - but the latter has been a shock.

“The main thing is how much rest you have - do you start running or is it too early and you’re going to blow out?” he said of the close-season balancing act.

“And you can do all the running in the world but coming back and striking a football, you’re feeling muscles you’ve forgotten about for four, five months.

“It’s the toughest pre-season I’ve had in terms of doing proper double sessions, intense two-and-a-half hour sessions with running in the morning then doing it again in the afternoon. It doesn’t sound like a lot compared to a normal working day but it’s not something you’re used to as a footballer.

“It’s been tough but it’s only going to stand us in good stead.”

Coming up this Sunday, City are hosting manager Steve Watson’s former team Newcastle United at Monks Cross. It will be the first time since February 16 that York have played in the ground, and the first time ever they will have played there in front of fans.

In the nine days following, City have friendlies against Sunderland and Middlesbrough lined up too.

Games like these against Football League teams are good not only physically, but also mentally, Newton explained.

“When you’re playing against the big teams, it gets to a point on the pitch where you’re thinking, ‘I can’t breathe here’ because you don’t see the ball most of the time,” he commented.

“But it’s a great experience. You get a different part of fitness because you’re constantly having to be mentally right. You can’t drop because the movement of them players is that good.

“Once and you will be punished whereas at our level you can sort of switch off a couple of times and maybe get away with it.

“That’s why these games are good. I can’t wait for that, and testing yourself against top, top players is always nice as well.

“Unless you’ve been lucky enough to go to an England game or Premier League game, no one’s been to a football match for a long time.

“I can’t remember the last time we played in front of more than a couple of hundred.

“It’s been so hard to go from playing in front of nearly 3,000 at home and going to grounds where the fans pull you through to none.

“These next few home games are massive for everybody to get used to the feel of the stadium.”

Following the departure of 2019/20 club captain Steve McNulty, the 32-year-old Newton was handed the armband for last season.

He has not heard yet whether he is keeping it but insists that whether he does or not will not affect his performances.

“If (Watson) didn’t announce it until the first game and it was someone else, it wouldn’t bother me. I’d still do what I do,” Newton said. “It won’t affect me or bother - I’ll still keep on doing me.”