Fifty-six days after the players were at Stamford Bridge beating Wolves to secure our top-four finish, they will be back at our home stadium this weekend hoping to set down a major marker for the new season ahead.
However for the real picture of how unusually short the break between campaigns has been in this very different year of 2020, you need to take off two more weeks for the FA Cup final and the conclusion of our Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, and the one that has already passed at the start of this season since our first game away from home at Brighton.
So just over a month basically for rest and recuperation and then the pre-season preparations – a very different programme in these very different times.
Frank Lampard has spoken about the flexibility in his team he is aiming for with his reshaped squad, and there has been flexibility too from his coaching team in meeting the very different requirements of summer 2020.
Back in lockdown the story was well told of players maintaining their fitness alone, although that was with regular group Zoom sessions with the fitness coaches, all the squad and the management staff, as well as individual programmes that were monitored daily.
Then there was Project Restart with its short prelude at Cobham in high summer temperatures before an intense fixture programme with so much at stake. Shortened holidays followed and then it was back to work.
‘If you add in the international break that took place between our only pre-season game at Brighton and the first Premier League game at the same ground, we had all the players for training for about nine days, so it has been a different structure to pre-season this year,’ confirms Chris Jones, Lampard’s assistant coach who is very much involved in the daily programmes.
‘With the players having not had as long off as usual we have been able to start on the high intensity fitness work earlier, but also we have new players so the manager is obviously very keen to impress on them the tactical work, and the structure of how the team plays. You need to get them up to speed quite quickly so they are ready to play.
‘So we have needed to maintain a balance across training which has meant streamlining everything a little.’
An important aid for this season’s preparations has been Blue Fuel, the sports nutrition service launched in July. It is now part of everyday life at Cobham and it is no wonder expert staff at the training ground are keen to utilise it. They played a major part in developing it.
‘The carbohydrate products are used before training and the protein ones afterwards, to give that added recovery,’ details Jones.
A full catering service has now resumed at Cobham but only in the last few days has this extended throughout the day, and in the early weeks of restart it was very limited indeed, which made supplements all the more important, especially with high intensity work commencing early in pre-season.
The Blue Fuel hydration sachets that go into recovery shakes really came into their own during the training before last season restarted, when temperatures were especially high.
‘We were training in small groups of five back then and we were running the players a lot, working them really hard,’ says Jones.
‘The products are good, they are what we snack on and use for recovery and hydration.’
At Cobham now there are Premier League procedures related to Covid-19 in place, and inspections are made, but it has moved on from the very restricted training that was possible at the beginning of Project Restart last season.
The first true test of this pre-season’s work came on Monday, down on the South Coast where our game there concluded the first round of Premier League fixtures for 2020/21.
The very short rest after the congested end to last season had been followed by a shortened period to prepare for the Brighton game. Unprecedented but the test was passed – with the team overcoming Brighton’s equaliser to finish strongly in the second half, with two more goals scored to make it 3-1 and solid defending to avoid any late scares at the other end of the pitch.
Here’s to similar energy, resolve and performance this weekend against Liverpool, and to another good result.