Phillip Cocu says Derby County’s players are looking in good shape after returning to tailored training earlier this week.
Strictly adhering to the EFL’s Return to Training Protocols, the Rams’ players returned to Moor Farm on Monday.
Derby’s squad had last reported for training back in mid-March, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic saw new UK Government rules enforced.
During the time which both tailored and group training was prohibited, Cocu’s squad were provided individual training programmes to follow at home.
The EFL last week confirmed that tailored training could commence at the beginning of this week, allowing Cocu and his staff to assess the players’ fitness first-hand and gently reintegrate them into football training.
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.
In the meantime, Cocu says it is important to begin building up the sharpness of his squad once again for when the time comes for football matches to resume in the Sky Bet Championship.
Speaking to RamsTV as part of Derby's 'Stay Safe. Stay Fit. Stay Connected.' initiative. Cocu said: “I think almost everybody is in really good and positive shape and also in good spirits to see each other again.
“It is not a surprise because with the circumstances that you could only leave your house for a workout, I think the players were looking forward to doing their fitness exercises and physical runs.
“Now it is important to get them back on the grass. When a ball is involved your movements are different to when you go for a run outside in the park or somewhere else.”
He added: “Quite a lot of work will be done physically, but also to make the step towards real training and group sessions again. It is a long time since we were all together on the grass.”
Midfield pair Duane Holmes and Tom Huddlestone were welcome additions on the training pitches this week.
Both players had been sidelined due to injury prior to the unexpected break in the season but the duo are now back in training.
Cocu also confirmed that striker Jack Marriott is having to adapt his training load owing to some slight groin issues.
“It has been positive for Duane and Tom so they could work on their rehabilitation, through video and the exercises they had to do,” Cocu explained.
“They are in good shape and have done the sessions, so they are part of the group now.
“Of course, they will need some time to get back to the level of the team and get their body on track in football sessions. They have done a lot of individual work, like everyone else, and they are fit.
“The only player apart from Krystian Bielik (with a long-term knee injury) is Jack Marriott, he has some slight groin issues, so he has to adapt his training load. We will see how that evolves in the next couple of weeks.”
Three players from Derby’s Under-23 side have also joined the squad for tailored training.
Cocu says it is an opportunity for the youngsters to make a positive impression on the coaching staff.
The Under-23s’ 2019/20 season was curtailed last month, but Cocu remains keen to cast a watchful eye over players that could make the step-up.
“We’ve added three players from the Under-23 group to train,” he said.
“Joe Bateman has been injured for quite some time, but he is fit now, Jahmal Hector-Ingram is training with us and so is Jordan Brown.
“It’s an opportunity for the boys to show themselves and get used to the resistance and the loads of the first-team sessions.
“It’s a chance to give us a good impression as we have to make decisions towards pre-season for next season; it’s an opportunity for them to show themselves.”