Cobblers newboy Lewis McGugan admits he’s still ‘nowhere near’ being match fit after experiencing the ‘fantastic’ feeling of playing his first competitive game in 17 months in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy tie at Peterborough United.
Frozen out by previous club Sheffield Wednesday and then snapped up by the Cobblers on a free transfer earlier this week, the 28-year-old was handed in first start in any game since May, 2016, for the trip to Posh.
He produced some eye-catching moments in an encouraging 70-minute performance that suggested there is more to come when he is fully up to speed.
“It was fantastic to be back out there,” said McGugan afterwards.
“It’s been a long, long time coming and it’s just a pleasure to be playing football again.
“I felt okay. In the first-half I felt like I got into the game quite quickly, it’s just a pleasure being out there really.
I need to keep getting stronger because I’m nowhere near where I want to be and where I can beLewis McGugan
“It’s nice to be able to just feel normal again and be back playing football and I’m ever so grateful that the club have given that opportunity.
“I’ve had a real bad two years but it’s in the past and hopefully now I can push on from that performance.
“I need to keep getting stronger because I’m nowhere near where I want to be and where I can be.”
McGugan’s manager, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, agreed with that assessment, saying: “Lewis is still far off it. He’s still way off being match fit.
“We were always planning to give him 60 minutes (on Tuesday) so he can get the feeling back but he’s still far off it.
“We actually wanted him to play a little bit higher and in the latter parts you could see he was getting tired and came to get the ball way too deep.
“We want him to make the difference at the other end of the pitch, but there is time and we need to work him and work him hard and hopefully we can him as match fit as quickly as possible.”
McGugan, who started his career at Nottingham Forets and has also played for Watford, seems to have quickly fitted in with his new team-mates at his latest club.
“I have to say they’ve been absolutely tremendous and made me very welcome,” added the midfielder, who was training with the club for a fortnight before putting pen to paper.
“They’re a great bunch and as soon as I came in you can tell this is a very tight-knit group and that always bodes well.I’m just happy to be a part of it now.
“I can only talk about as long as I’ve been at the club and I think that, speaking to the players, the performances have been there and on another day the results could have been different.
“I think the performance (on Tuesday) was good against a good Peterborough side who are doing well in the league, so I just think we’ve got to keep going, keep listening to the manager and keep doing what he’s asking of us and the results will start coming.”