Jamie Carragher admits he is itching to return to action as Liverpool look to build upon a fresh wave of optimism ahead of 2011-12.

The majority of the Reds' first-team squad are back at Melwood for pre-season training on Monday and the vice-captain is confident they can go on to enjoy a successful campaign.

"I'm really looking forward to getting back into it," he said.

"We've had longer than usual off this year and I want to get started now.

"At the end of the season you're ready for a holiday and a rest but by halfway through your time off the focus turns to the following season.

"You start getting excited again. I feel refreshed and ready.

"It's a new start and there's a new sense of optimism.

"Our form in the second half of last season was very good and we need to ensure we prepare well and get off to a decent start this season."

Over the next few weeks Kenny Dalglish's charges will be assessed by Head of Sports Medicine and Sports Science Dr Peter Brukner and his staff to ensure they are in optimum shape ahead of the big kick off against Sunderland on August 13.

Carragher believes the medical team play a vital role in modern day football and acknowledges that the game has undergone some massive changes since he made his bow way back in 1997.

"It's certainly not like it was when I first started," said Carra.

"It's not as gruelling as it used to be when there was a lot of running. We used to all run together but now we're split up into different groups.

"The game has moved forward with sports science used more these days. Now everyone is assessed individually.

"There are heart monitors and blood tests, and the readings they take decides what work you are given.

"Everyone is given their own plan to ensure they are in the best shape possible to start the season."

He continued: "The days of coming back overweight and running it off are long gone.

"You would be in trouble if you came back like that.

"We all look after ourselves these days. The way the game is now you have to keep things ticking over. To be honest, I get stuck in my ways anyway with what I eat and drink.

"You have a bit of a blow out with a couple of nights out in the summer which you wouldn't do during the season but you don't want to batter your body.

"As you get older it's even more important you look after yourself.

"Competition for places is really high and with new players coming in you don't want to give anyone a head start on you by coming back unfit.

"That would put you behind everyone else and down the pecking order. We were each given a fitness programme for the summer with what to do each week but that's nothing new - that's been the case since Gerard Houllier came in as manager.

"The club will be able to tell whether you have stuck to it when we get in on Monday based on the results of the tests we do.

" They will know what our fitness levels should be."

The familiar sound of Sammy Lee's booming voice urging the players to give it an extra push will be absent when the players return to the training ground on Monday morning.

The club announced the assistant manager would be leaving Liverpool earlier this week and Carra has been quick to pay tribute to the Reds stalwart.

"I'd worked with Sammy for a long time and he's been a great help to me during my career," he said.

"In football there are always comings and going in terms of players and staff. I want to wish him all the best for the future."

Liverpool's preparations for the 2010-11 season were hindered by late returns from the World Cup as well as an early start to their Europa League campaign.

However, only Lucas Leiva and Luis Suarez will miss the start of this pre-season due to their involvement in the Copa America and Carragher believes the lack of disruption will have a positive impact on the Reds this time around.

"It's going to be great to have most of the players around from the start of pre-season," Carragher said.

"That will make a big difference. It can be difficult with the preparations when everyone comes back in dribs and drabs.

"It's good for the manager to have everyone around and it means after a decent pre-season we should be ready to start the season.

"It will be great to see all the lads again and I'm sure there will be a few new faces coming in before the transfer window closes."