RELAXING in the company of those closest to him made Dion Conroy realise extending his Swindon Town stay was the best option for his footballing career.

After overcoming the mental toughness that the first six months of the 2018-19 season brought, Conroy excelled in the late winter and early spring – enough to earn him the captain’s armband in the later parts of the season.

Discussions were held between Town manager Richie Wellens and the 23-year-old regarding his future at SN1 before Notts County’s visit to the County Ground in May, but no agreement was officially reached.

Fans sweated on Conroy’s future in red, but were relieved when the trustworthy defender penned a fresh one-year deal last week to remain for the 2019-20 season.

The truth is he needed time - time to relax and put football to the back of his mind following a season of major highs and lows.

“I went away with my family as I always do each year, and we talked about my future during our time away,” said Conroy.

“We all agreed I’ve been playing my best football for a while, so that made staying at Swindon an obvious choice.

“I spoke to Richie before the season ended, and he was keen to sort a contract out.

“But I needed to work things out at that time, especially after coming back from my injury earlier in the season.”

Town start their pre-season campaign this morning at Southampton University where a series of fitness tests will help Wellens and his staff establish where his players are physically.

Perhaps unlike last season, Conroy is this time chomping at the bit to get going.

It follows his mental block – which he has since overcome – after sustaining a serious knee injury, which he accepts lowered his performance levels on the pitch.

Concerned by what could happen in a 50-50 challenge, the ex-Chelsea defender learnt to overcome his fears and focus purely on the game during the second half of the season.

And that, no doubt, inspired his welcome return to form.

He added: “The first six months of the season were so hard mentally more than anything else.

“Every game I was too focused on my knee more than the game itself, and that’s why I wasn’t playing to the best of my ability.

“My concentration was still there, but at the end of the season my primary focus was on the football.

“I’ve never had that focus before – nothing else entered my mind at the end of last season other than football.

“I’ve relaxed myself and can’t wait to get going today. It was a weird situation to be in, but I’m very happy with the outcome.”