Preston North End striker David Nugent says that the Lilywhites’ squad have all returned to training in very good condition.
The PNE players returned to Springfields on Monday after almost ten weeks away from the training ground, but the forward says that the fitness staff have done a very good job on making sure everyone returned with a high level of base fitness.
And the experienced front man admitted that he had to keep working during his own time away to be ready for the second ‘pre-season’ of the campaign: “I need to now; as you get older, you tend to look after your body more!” He told iFollow PNE.
“When I was younger I used to just turn up and starting running, but now I am an older pro, I have to keep my legs moving, I have to keep my legs moving in the summer – or at times like this – I have to keep on top of it and try and be as ready as possible.
“It is horrible [having two pre-seasons]! I wasn’t expecting to have to do two pre-seasons, but with everything that has been going on, the fitness staff have given us a programme to do while we have been away and it has helped a lot.
“Tom Little deserves a lot of praise for what he has done for us; he has kept us in tip top shape, because we have all come back in great condition. No one has moaned, everyone has got on with it and it is nice to see a football again after two months.
“When we got told we were going to be off, the programme we have been doing has been all running – there were no footballs involved. We knew it was a break where we had to keep on top of things as when we came back it would be straight into training and straight into the games, so it has been non-stop for us.
“It has been nice to get back to the training ground, training in small groups, seeing some familiar faces and having that banter on the training pitch again. The lads have been excellent – we have been keeping our distance, coming in at half hour intervals between in group, so it is nice everyone is there working hard, but we also can’t wait for the games to be underway.”
Coming back has seen the players tested twice in the first few days, with the squad and staff all returning negative results from the Covid-19 swabs they underwent, which the former Leicester City man says was a big mental step for everyone.
“There would have been a few lads nervous coming back to get tested, but when they have all come back negative, it just shows you that the lads have been doing as they are told, staying at home and keeping their distance and it is good that everyone tested negative and we are all back,” he continued.
“This is a positive, and I am sure that a few weeks down the line everyone will be in the same boat at the other clubs and we can get the season underway and continue what we have done so far this season.
“The ‘R’ rate is coming down and I am sure that in the next few weeks the government will ease the lockdown, but as footballers, we have to stay safe. We are still going to work and when contact does come into play we will have to be careful, at home with our family members and knowing we are getting tested twice weekly is a positive as you will know if anything changes.
“It is great for football to come back; every fan wants it back and we just have to do it step by step and make sure it is safe to resume. As footballers we want to get back, it is our job and we have been itching to start and we will do when it safe to do so.”
When the matches do resume, the Lilywhites have a lot to play for, sitting in the last Play-Off spot at the moment, with the teams tightly bunched in the upper echelons of the EFL Championship table.
And Nuge says the whole group are determined to at least maintain their current sixth spot: “We are in the Play-Offs at the moment and we want to stay in there. It is up to us to come back and carry this form on.
“We have got a lot of tough games coming up, but we are confident – with or without fans – that we have the quality in the squad to get the points we need to maintain the position we are in the league.
“We all still want to get to the Premier League and with no fans there, we need to use that as the extra motivation to achieve our aim.
“The competitive edge will be there, as it is every day on the training pitch, when there are no fans watching, so we just have to replicate what we do in training in a real game. It will be like a training match, but we know there are points up for grabs and we need them if we are to achieve our goals,” he added.