The countdown to the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League kick-off is officially underway, as West Ham United's players and staff returned to their Chadwell Heath training ground to signal the start of pre-season.

The Hammers' first-team squad were put through their paces under the watchful eye of assistant manager Neil McDonald, ahead of Tuesday's trip to the Republic of Ireland.

Macca was delighted to get the group back together and hopes a productive pre-season will pave the way for another fine start to the campaign.

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He told West Ham TV: "We've had a good break. The boys are back in for their first day, which is great and they all look in good nick. Everybody's fighting fit, we've had a quick session and then we're off to Cork, so it's off and running as quick as we possibly can.

"We've got several weeks to be ready for the Cardiff game and that's the most important date. We started last season by getting 14 points out of the first eight games, which set us up for a really good season.

"So it's vitally important that we hit the ground running. If we can push them on a little bit further than we did last season then they'll all be in good shape for that first game on 17 August."

As well as a whole host of familiar faces, the Hammers' ranks were boosted by the summer's new recruits, with Razvan Rat, goalkeeper Adrian and youngster Danny Whitehead among those on show. Andy Carroll was also present as he continues his treatment for a heel injury, while Mohamed Diame was the only absentee, having been given extra time to rest after spending part of June on FIFA World Cup qualifying duty with Senegal.

"It's always good to get new players in as early as we possibly can," Macca continued. "We've managed to get Adrian, we've got Rat and Andy Carroll as well. It just freshens the whole place up, gives everybody a boost and there's competition for places which is what the manager wants.

"We're really pleased [that Andy's signed], his contribution last season was great. Get him fit, put the ball in the right areas and he'll score lots of goals for us, because he's a fantastic player."

Matt Taylor and James Tomkins
Matt Taylor and James Tomkins during the first training session

Meanwhile, head of sports medicine Andy Rolls explained what the players can expect in the coming days, with the next six weeks already meticulously planned. The Hammers are among the first clubs to get back to the training field and Rolls expects the additional time to aid a smooth transition.

"The initial stage is basics really - height, weight and percentage of body fat. We make sure no one has overindulged too much, which they won't have done, because they're a good group. It's all about getting them in, getting things organised and making sure things run smoothly.

"We know we're back in probably earlier than a lot of clubs, but we just use that time to our advantage and just take a little bit of time on stuff.

"On Tuesday we fly to Cork and then pre-season will start more there. There will be three sessions a day, an early morning session, a football session and then injury prevention and gym session in the afternoon.

"It will be big spaces [to begin with]. Then over the six-week period the pitches will become smaller and the intensity will become higher, as we prepare for the Premier League season."