Paul Dummett says Newcastle United’s players are already on the ball – thanks to Rafa Benitez.
Dummett and his team-mates are in Ireland for a week-long training camp.
Benitez’s side beat Scottish Premiership side Heart of Midlothian on Friday night in what was their opening pre-season friendly.
And Newcastle will take on Preston North End at Deepdale on Saturday after returning to England.
Dummett – who came off the bench at Tynecastle – says the players have had an “intense” first couple of weeks since reporting back to the club at the start of the month.
However, Benitez, unlike some managers, quickly introduces the ball to his early pre-season training sessions.
“It’s been intense, but we’ve done a lot of ball work as well,” said Dummett, who is in talks over a new deal at United.
“The manager had us doing the same last season, and he’s keen to use the ball early.
“We’ve been training as normal with running on top, so it’s been enjoyable, which is probably not something you normally hear a lot from players.
“What you want to do as a player is play with the ball, and we’ve already been doing that so that’s great.”
Newcastle beat Hearts 2-1 thanks to two first-half goals from Dwight Gayle.
Rolando Aarons also struck the woodwork twice in a bright first-half performance north of the border.
“It’s always tough in the first pre-season game, but it’s good to get the legs going,” said Dummett, who was Benitez’s first-choice left back in the Championship.
“The result’s not massively important, but it’s good for us to get a win for our first game after our first week in training.
“We’ve got some other games coming up in the next few weeks, and a training camp, then we can try and get a bit more fitness in that before another match on Saturday.
“It’s all part of the build-up for the first game of the season.”
Siem de Jong, back from a season-long loan at PSV Eindhoven, also impressed at Tynecastle, where the club was backed by 1,468 fans.
And Dummett felt the team acquitted itself well going forward, though Benitez conceded after the game that there was a lot of work to be done in other areas.
“Especially at the start of the game, we had quite a few chances,” said the 25-year-old.
“We hit the bar a couple of times. Dwight had a few chances, and Rolando too.
“We created a lot of chances so it was a positive thing, especially for the first game when you might be a little bit rusty, because we’ve been doing primarily fitness work for the first week or two.”
Newcastle’s squad had an unusually long two-month break given the Championship’s early finish and the Premier League’s later start.
And only a handful of players were involved in summer internationals.
“It’s important to get rid of the rustiness, because we’ve had eight weeks off without playing football,” said Dummett.
“It’s about getting rid of the rustiness, building the match fitness up and it’s nice to win the game too because you don’t want to lose.
“The main priority was match fitness.”
Florian Lejeune, the only new face to have arrived at the club so far this summer, made his debut against Hearts.
The defender joined from Spanish club Eibar in an £8.8million deal earlier this month.
And Dummett, having seen the 26-year-old in training, believes Lejeune will be able to handle the physicality of the Premier League.
Lejeune will also add to the competition for places in Benitez’s back four.
“The lads will all agree with me that since the first day of training he’s fitted straight in,” said Dummett.
“He’s comfortable on the ball, and he’s a big unit and strong as well.
“He’s also good in the air. He has a lot of attributes he can bring to our team, and he can bring a lot of competition.”