Phillip Cocu says it was ‘really great’ to be reunited with Derby County’s players this week for the first time since March.
Derby’s first-team squad reported back to Moor Farm for tailored training on Monday 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 further tests followed a few days later.
The accuracy of the 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.
Prior to this week, Derby’s squad had last reported for training as a group in mid-March, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic saw new UK Government rules enforced.
Tailored training means a new way of working, which everyone in the Derby camp must adapt to in order to make sure they follow the EFL and UK Government’s guidelines.
Cocu admits he has enjoyed working with his players again, but says it is important to not get too carried away at this early stage and remain vigilant.
“It felt really great to be back, but of course it is different and we have to adapt to the guidelines,” Cocu told RamsTV as part of Derby's 'Stay Safe. Stay Fit. Stay Connected.' initiative.
“We saw from the pictures from the training sessions and the players that everyone was happy that we could return and start training again.
“It also felt really good to see each other after such a long time. It is a positive feeling and we hope to progress and the goal, obviously, is to start to play games in the near future if things continue to be positive.”
He added: “It is nice to have that normal feel, but we have to be very careful.
“It is good to see the infection rate going down. Things are improving, but we have to be careful because we know where we came from and we don’t want to go back to that situation.
“The NHS and key workers are doing a great job to keep everyone going and to treat people, so we have to follow the guidelines.”
Derby’s medical team, led by Club Doctor Amit Pannu, have implemented a strict set of rules for the Rams’ players to adhere to from the moment they enter the premises at Moor Farm.
Cocu says the club is taking every step to keep all players and staff members safe and risk free.
“We have very strict protocols,” he said.
“Safety has to always be the most important thing for the players, their families and everyone involved.
“We have been tested and when players arrive, they have to stay in their cars and have their temperature checked.
“As well as that, there is a questionnaire that has to be filled in every day so the players can be monitored and also know how their family members are feeling. Apart from the tests, we are checking the players every time to reduce the risk as much as possible.
“They arrive with their training kit on and there is no showering or eating at the facilities, it is only the training session.
“We work in two sessions. At 10am we have 12 players, with three groups of four on different pitches, and then the same again at 12pm with the second group joins, when the others have left.”
He added: “It is not what we used to do before. But it feels good and it is the first step towards returning to more normal training sessions and playing games.”
Cocu says the build-up to contact training will follow step-by-step process, with the safety of players and staff the top priority.
The Derby boss was also keen to state his thanks and gratitude to all staff members across the club for their work during what is an unprecedented time for everyone.
He said: “It is obvious that we have to go step by step, going initially from individual sessions to groups of four.
“The next step could be eight and then, before we talk about games, there has to be a certain period of time when we can train with full contact or contact sessions to prepare the players.
“We have to take it one step at a time, we check how things are going and make sure everybody is fit and safe with the protocols we have in place.
“It is quite some, work so I have to thank the staff and the medical staff for keeping everything going and ensuring people are safe.”