Dundee’s Faissal El Bakhtaoui admits he is reaping the rewards on the pitch after spending long, hard hours becoming physically stronger in the gym.
The 24-year-old grew up playing futsal on the beaches in the south of France before moving to Scotland and winning a contract with Dunfermline.
He was then snapped up by former Dens boss Paul Hartley in the summer of 2016 and the striker admits he initially found it hard to adjust after playing in League One with the Pars.
Now, though, he is fully equipped to deal with the demands of the Premiership and he showed exactly what he is capable of on Wednesday night with an early contender for goal of the season against Dundee United in the Betfred Cup derby win at Dens.
El Bakhtaoui, who hopes to win the nod once again against Hamilton on Premiership business today, said: “I am now playing against big, strong players.
“So I go to the gym every day after training for an hour or an hour and a half.
“I go with big (Sofien) Moussa, who is living next door to me, as well as Glen Kamara and Roarie Deacon.
“We all go to the gym together.
“I do weights but not large ones, working my upper body.
“I don’t feel bigger physically but I do feel stronger.
“It makes a big impact for me in the games – 100%. It helps me so much and it is much better than before.
“All those hours in the gym are worth it.”
When asked if the physical nature of the Premiership had surprised him, El Bakhtaoui said: “Playing in League One with Dunfermline was physical but it is harder in the Premiership because you are up against better players.
“They are also tall, big defenders so it is quite different but now I know what to expect in the Premiership.”
El Bakhtaoui scored a stunning goal against Celtic last season which earned him high praise from Hoops boss Brendan Rodgers.
However, he rates his incredible volleyed strike against United even higher.
He added: “I was delighted to score a spectacular goal against Dundee United in the derby.
“I think it was my best goal.
“It was better than my one against Celtic as we won this time and went through in the cup.
“Everyone did really well. It was a big game for the club and I was happy to be involved.
“Hopefully I can stay in the team now. I need to work hard and show the manager I can play in this team every week.
“I have to be confident and keep going. I just needed some game time to get my confidence back .
“Last season was difficult for me as I had been at Dunfermline and it wasn’t the same level.
“It was my first year in the Premiership but I think I know now how high the level is.
“So I will just work as hard as I can to get games now hopefully against Hamilton.
“They are a tough team and it is a difficult place to go to.
“They are a physical side with some good players but we just have to concentrate on ourselves.”