The EFL last week revealed details of its updated and finalised Return to Training Protocols (RTT) ahead of the planned resumption of tailored training for Derby County and other Sky Bet Championship clubs today (Monday 25th May 2020).
The EFL has commissioned Nationwide Pathology to support the testing of EFL players and staff as part of the first phase of its RTT protocols, with initial COVID-19 testing for players, coaching and backroom staff in the Championship taking place last week.
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.
One man who is looking forward to getting back on the training pitches and beginning the tailored training is Derby’s Head Goalkeeping Coach Shay Given.
The former Republic of Ireland international shot-stopper has spoken to RamsTV throughout the last two months as part of the ‘Stay Safe. Stay Fit. Stay Connected.’ initiative, discussing various topics in a weekly interview titled ‘Any Given Sunday’.
In addition, Given has devoted his time to heading up a campaign to provide protective equipment for frontline NHS workers called ‘Care Given’ and details of how to support the campaign can be found at caregiven.co.uk/shop.
‘Care Given’ is a not-for-profit fundraising organisation and their current mission is to supply PPE to the NHS and key workers across the UK & Ireland who are most in need, with so far over £12,500 raised.
Given remains committed to helping to raise vital funds to help the NHS and, alongside that, he is looking forward to donning his goalkeeping gloves and working with Derby’s players once again.
With strict rules in place, implemented by Derby’s medical team, Given says everyone is going to have to adapt to the new way of working when it comes to training as a group.
The 44-year-old told RamsTV: “We had COVID-19 tests done last week at the training ground and it felt like such a long time since we had been back there, so it was nice to see some friendly faces.
“We’ve all been tested and are looking forward to getting going. It was a bit different in the sense the car park was cordoned off and you were only allowed to park in a certain area.
“It’s probably going to be strange for a few weeks to get back into the swing of things. I will be working with my group (goalkeepers) and we will have to keep our distance and obey the rules which have been put in place by the medical team.
“In football we are used to going into the training ground, being around each other and the banter around the dressing room. But for now, we have to turn up in our cars, do the session and get back in the car to head home.”
He added: “It will feel strange for a while, but I think everyone is looking forward to being back out on the grass. When I went to the training ground last week, I had a walk on the training pitch to feel the grass under my feet and get that smell back of being on the pitch.”
Derby’s players last reported for training as a group on Friday 13th March, which was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic enforcing new UK Government rules.
As a result of just over two months away from regular day-to-day training, albeit the squad have had their own fitness programmes to follow, Given believes there will be a pre-season feel to training.
The football authorities collectively agreed in March that the professional game in England will not resume until it is safe to resume and while tailored training has resumed, a date for the season to restart is still to be confirmed.
Given said: “We’ve been off for such a long time, it will feel like a pre-season to a degree so after two months or so off from training we’ll have to break the lads (goalkeepers) in gently.
“The lads have had their own programmes but there’s nothing like getting the footballs out and doing a session.”
Given joined Derby in the summer of 2018 as Head Goalkeeping Coach under former manager Frank Lampard, after ending his impressive 23-year playing career at the end of the 2016/17 campaign.
Born in Lifford, County Donegal, Given joined the Celtic Academy as a teenager and his performances persuaded the Bhoys’ legend Kenny Dalglish to bring the goalkeeper to Blackburn Rovers.
However, Given is most recognised for his outstanding service to Newcastle United, where he made over 450 appearances before departing for Manchester City in 2009. He then went on to have spells at Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Stoke City.
He earned 134 caps throughout a 20-year international career, during which he appeared at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and 2012 UEFA European Championships.