The Lewis Holtby of last season was unrecognisable to the man himself who is hoping to benefit from a full pre-season.

Holtby had a disrupted 2019/20 campaign, one beset by niggling injuries and then a knee problem which would otherwise have ended his season were it not for lockdown.

The German marked a year at the club last week, also celebrating his 30th birthday, and with four consecutive starts to begin this season, is looking to make a bigger impact than in his debut year.

His start has been promising, one fine free kick, one disallowed goal and a big miss at Newcastle meant he could already have matched his goal tally from the whole of last season.

A start at Derby County on Saturday would make it five consecutive times in a Rovers starting line-up for the first time, and Holtby believes he’s better placed for the rigours of a compact Championship season having joined a month in to the last campaign which saw him fail to have a pre-season programme with a professional club.

“I know I’m really fit and once that’s all sorted I know my football quality can rise up to really help the team,” Holtby explained.

“I put everything into every training session and it was very demanding having to play catch up without the pre-season.

“My body seemed to constantly be on the brink and the big knee injury didn’t help things.

“We’ve worked really hard in pre-season and I know I can push myself every day to be ready for three games in a week. That’s the Lewis Holtby I know.

“The one before I didn’t know. I think it’s the fittest I’ve been since my early 20s.

“I still have the love for football and have that sharpness. Putting your body into the right position always allows you to be free, to play free.

“I feel different this year and hopefully I and the club can benefit from it.”

A new-look Holtby is being seen in more one ways than one, ‘a big chunk of hair’ on his head and also a deeper role than we’ve previously seen him employed in.

His early days at Rovers saw him play from the right, while he ended last season playing in the centre forward position.

The departure of Stewart Downing has opened a door in central midfield, one Holtby looks more composed in, giving him responsibility to start off attacks from a deeper position.

“I’m really enjoying it this season, in a slightly deeper position that I have played in my career,” he explained.

“I have the freedom still to get forward into the box and it’s happened twice now where I’ve come close to scoring.

“I think I was marginally offside when I scored at Bournemouth but should have buried the chance I had at Newcastle.”

Since arriving at Rovers 12 months ago it’s been a time of change in the wider world, but also Holtby’s, having got married and now expecting his first child with his wife who is currently in Germany.

The coronavirus outbreak saw him return to Germany to complete his rehabilitation, and now back in England playing behind closed doors, he hopes soon to be reunited with his wife.

In the meantime Holtby has his football to focus on and feels Rovers have to believe in what Tony Mowbray is asking of them and their new-look 4-3-3 system.

He added: “We need to trust the process, keep going, continue being brave and having courage and pressing from the front.

“The mindset has to be the same.

“The mindset always has to be right and we have to trust in ourselves because we have cracking players."