A year ago tomorrow, Chris Gunter was preparing to take on Portugal in the European Championships Semi-Final in Lyon. A huge number of minutes have been played by our resilient right-back since then and, having put pen to paper on a brand new contract at the club, our Welsh international hero is readying himself for another crack at the Championship as a Royal – his sixth season at Madejski Stadium!
“I was coming into the last 12 months of my deal, so its’ nice to get it done early,” he exclusively told our new iFollow service after committing until 2020. “As a player, you never want to be going into a season wondering what is going to happen at the end of it. So a big thanks to the manager, Brian and the owners…I’m delighted.
“I’ve been at the club a long time now. I signed at the same time as G and we’re probably two of the longest-serving players at the club right now – and during that time I’ve managed to put in a lot of appearances.
“I feel really settled. For a club it’s important to have people around that know the place, people who want to be at the club - and that’s certainly the case with myself.”
Gunter’s signature was announced as inaccurate speculation grew about a move away from the Madejski…and less than 24 hours after the manager committed his future to the club!
“In the last year, things have changed at the club - and that’s purely down to the manager and his staff. He was a big reason why it was such an easy decision for me to stay.
“What he’s done for this club in 12 months is hard to put into words really. He’s made a massive impact. And, as a player, he is somebody you want to play for. I couldn’t have any more respect for him.
“And hopefully this season can be just as good as the last one under him…but with a slightly different ending!”
Memories of Wembley heartache are fading, but will still hurt.
“The end of last season…you can’t get worse in football. We all know how it ended and it was tough period after the Final - a case of just getting through a period of time when you know it’s going to hurt.
“But it’s amazing how as a footballer, you’re programmed to quite quickly turn things into a positive and suddenly those good thoughts come back and before you know it you’re back in pre-season training and looking ahead to another campaign, another big challenge.
“If we can match or better what we did last season, with the improvement that we’ll have being 12 months down the line with this manager, there’s no reason why we can’t have another successful season.
“We know it’s going to be tough, we can’t think that because we finished third in the league and we got to the Final that now we’re better than most teams in this division. The attitude has to be exactly the same.
“We’ll be treated and seen differently by other teams in the league which will make life harder, but it’s important to keep the aims realistic. And as long as we give everything can, we now know how far that can take us.”
Gunter started every one of our league games in 2016-17 and he is openly excited about the prospect of adding to his 218 appearances in a blue and white hooped shirt – and this time he doesn’t want to miss a minute!
“I came off here against Derby towards the end of the game last season and missed eight minutes of that match, which at the end of the season was a bit disappointing because it would have been nice to do the whole lot,” he smiled!
“After the Final, I had a couple of days off and then I went away with Wales for a big qualifier in Serbia – that was the next two weeks for me.
“I had a couple of weeks off after that, but being honest I’ve never known anything different; I’ve always had games over the summer, so it was completely normal to me.
“And if and when I was to get an extended break, I don’t think I’d overly enjoy it. I’d go away for a short spell and then I’d get bored pretty easily. So I need to be back in the club, doing stuff.
“I joined up slightly later than some of the boys, but now I’m in training and looking forward to the start of the season.
“We’re all together and there was a very good spirit here last year - that will be the same this year I’m sure. Everything feels settled, we’re feeling really good and hopefully we can all come through pre-season fit and give it a right good go when it all starts on 5th August.
“The pre-season games themselves don’t really matter in terms of results. The only thing that matters is making sure that when we arrive at QPR on the first day of the season, we’re fit and ready. So it’s important to play these pre-season games, do everything right over the next four or five weeks, and arrive at Loftus Road in peak condition.”