Derby County’s players reported back for tailored training earlier this week by strictly following the EFL’s Return to Training Protocols.
The EFL last week revealed that it has commissioned Nationwide Pathology to support the testing of EFL players and staff as part of the first phase of its Return To Training protocols.
Initial COVID-19 testing for players, coaching and backroom staff across the Championship took place last week and, after receiving the all clear, the Rams resumed training on Monday.
The EFL has also confirmed that there will be a flexible approach to testing, with a combination of procedures conducted by independent testers, club medical staff and some self-testing as required.
The accuracy of these tests is aligned with Government guidelines and, for the avoidance of any doubt, availability to Derby and other clubs will not impact NHS testing resources or prevent other individuals from receiving a test as required.
Before this week, Derby’s players had last reported for training as a group in mid-March, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic saw new UK Government rules enforced.
Derby’s medical staff, led by Club Doctor Amit Pannu, have implemented strict guidelines across the Training Ground to ensure the club meets the requirements of the Return to Training Protocols.
Matt Clarke, on loan for the 2019/20 season from Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, admitted there was a different feel to the whole working day from a player’s perspective.
Speaking to RamsTV as part of Derby’s ‘Stay Fit. Stay Safe. Stay Connected’ initiative, Clarke said: “It is very different in terms of how things work when being back in and we were warned in advance that there would be a different feel to the place.
“Usually a training ground is a hive of activity and there’s lots of socialising going on. During these times that is not something that is going to be possible.
“I think you realise in times like this, as many other people will have done as well, just how social work can be. You can take for granted the relationships you have with people you see every day.
“It is different, as I said, but it’s something we’re all willing to get used to if it means we can get back to playing football. It’s challenging, but this is the time we’re in right now.”
The EFL confirmed in March that the professional game will not resume until it is safe to resume and while tailored training has returned, a date for the season to restart is still to be confirmed.
Clarke is eager to get back to playing again, after impressing during his loan with the Rams so far.
He has made 28 appearances and been in fine form since returning from injury at the end of 2018.
The central defender said: “It was nice to be back training and it almost had a beginning of the season feel to it.
“It was nice to see each other again and we’re pleased that it is back up and running. We had some programmes to follow, some tough ones, but nothing beats proper training.
“However much work you do on your own, it still takes time to get back into things again and obviously the people at the club will gauge how much work we need to do before going back (to playing games).”