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💬 “Hundreds of little bridges to cross but everybody is pushing to try and get back to some sort of normality”

Royals boss is having to be creative in planning socially distanced training sessions

27 May 2020

The Royals squad are back in training and huge efforts are going into trying to bring football back. But life on the training pitches is still far from normal.

“Everybody is pushing to try and get back to some sort of normality and there is a real will to get this season done,” he told BBC Radio Berkshire.

“I’m being very much kept in the loop by Nigel Howe, who is working as part of the EFL Board, so I get a lot of information back from him - and there is a real hope we can push forward.

“There are of course literally hundreds of little bridges that we’ve got to cross to get there, however.”

The Royals squad returned to training at the start of this week, the very first step towards a possible resumption. But it was not training as we know it.

“We are only allowed to work in small groups as clubs place an enormous amount of care, attention and detail into how we manage to get back on the training ground.

“We might be looking at having two weeks of non-contract training, with no element of competitiveness. If you wanted to play a little five-a-side match or an attack vs defence exercise…none of that complies.

“Then hopefully if we get through that period , we’d be looking at another few weeks of training with an element of competition between players, helping to prepare them for competitive matches.

“We’re following in line with the Premier League but running a little behind them in terms of timescales. But I don’t think there are any real definites about when or how games will be played – a lot of issues are still to be resolved.

“The league have been saying that they want it completed by the end of July, but then playing nine games in such a short space of time, possibly including play-offs, time is of the essence.

“But it is important that is has to be done with the safety of the players at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”

The Royals boss has years and years of coaching experience and has taken hundreds and hundreds of training sessions during his time in the Premier League and the Championship. But now he and his staff are having to be inventive in how to build sessions around the restrictions that are understandably in place.

“You pride yourselves as a coach on doing a mix of things with the players on the training pitch every day. And this is stretching the imagination, trying to keep the players engaged and adding some variety in the things you are doing with them.

“We’re allocating one coach to each group of players and the players can’t interact or mingle with other groups - once you’re in a training group of players you’ve got to stay with that group of players for the foreseeable future.

“We’ve got three goalkeepers and once you designate a goalkeeper to a group of players, you can’t change that either. So do you designate a goalkeeper to train with four strikers, or do you get defenders involved with the keepers because he has to have a relationship with them?

“There are so many little things wrapped into trying to get football back, problems  that every coach and manager is having to face at the moment.”

“If we have to put up with these little idiosyncrasies, that’s what we have to do if we’re going to try our best to get this season finished for the sake of the integrity of the game.”

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