Back to work...Preston North End players return to training TODAY

Preston North End were taking their first steps towards a return to football today by resuming training.
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The EFL have allowed clubs in the Championship to start training for the first time since the middle of March.

All sessions have to follow a strict protocol, with social distancing observed.

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Players will work in groups of five and for no longer than 75 minutes – with 15 minutes allowed for warm-up and recovery.

Some of the Preston players in pre-season training at Springfields in July last yearSome of the Preston players in pre-season training at Springfields in July last year
Some of the Preston players in pre-season training at Springfields in July last year

North End players will wash their own training kit for the time being and will not shower at the ground.

They are to be provided with lunches by the club’s chef after training to be eaten at home.

In this initial training period, no tackling will be allowed and the groups of five will not be able to mix. Although the protocol is restrictive, the players being able to put on their boots again and train is a boost.

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The North End squad and backroom staff all had Covid-19 tests last Thursday, the results coming back clear.

Only two tests out of the 1,014 carried out last week in the Championship came back positive, both at Hull City.

Anyone testing positive has to self isolate for seven days.

Players will be tested twice a week in accordance with the EFL guidance.

PNE advisor Peter Ridsdale told the Lancashire Post: “The lads are looking forward to getting back to training.

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“This is the first part of the return and things will be stepped up gradually.

“We’ve put in place all the necessary safety measures at Springfields.”

Although no date for the Championship season to return has been officially decided, June 20 is currently being worked towards.

That would allow clubs to have just less than four weeks to get back in shape ready to play nine remaining games.

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It is understood that two of the squad who will not return to training are Connor Simpson and Michael Crowe.

Both are out of contract in the summer and will not be offered new deals. Simpson is on a season’s loan at Accrington Stanley, although it is likely the League One campaign will not resume.

The tall striker has only played once for North End since a £50,000 move from Hartlepool in January 2018.

That was as a late substitute in a 1-1 draw at Aston Villa.

Goalkeeper Crowe has played only once for PNE, in the FA Cup 16 months ago.

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Crowe had a brief loan spell with Bamber Bridge shortly before the season was suspended.

There are three other PNE players – Paul Gallagher, Tom Clarke and Mathew Hudson – who are out of contract in the summer. They will return to training today.