West Ham United have reported back for the first day of pre-season training in high spirits with the manager summing up the feelgood factor in the camp.
Gianfranco Zola sported his usual broad smile as the players took to the lush green Chadwell Heath pitches on a sunny summer's day. The manager and his coaching staff were all in before 9am and ready to go for a busy week that would see day-long programmes involving a range of fitness tests, medical checks and a series of exacting training sessions.
"It feels very good to be back," Zola told WHUTV. "We are here very much willing and ready to start this new season. We have a lot of enthusiasm and are looking forward to getting started.
"I had a very, very good rest and like everybody else, I recharged my batteries to start the new season. This is the most crucial time of the year. We need to make sure we work well because it will have a lot of benefits in the future."
England trio Robert Green, Matthew Upson and Carlton Cole, along with Luis Boa Morte after his spell with Portugal, all have a few extra days off while Under-21 duo James Tomkins and Mark Noble, along with Jonathan Spector - after his five games at the FIFA Confederations Cup with the US - are due to link up with the squad in Austria next week.
Luis Jimenez is yet to arrive at the club after his summer switch from Internazionale, with the forward just finalising some personal matters. Scott Parker, the new Hammer of the Year, was doing well as he returns to full fitness following the groin injury that curtailed his involvement at the end of last season, while Julien Faubert was back after his loan spell at Real Madrid.
The early morning session saw Zola, Steve Clarke and Kevin Keen working with the players with Academy director Tony Carr and reserve-team coach Alex Dyer also getting involved. Fitness coach Antonio Pintus was also particularly busy and Valon Behrami cut a welcome sight as he jogged around the pitches four months after his cruciate knee ligament injury and is on track for a return in August.
Although the club can not officially confirm the new squad numbers until the start of the 2009/10 campaign, some changes look likely. Herita Ilunga is due to switch from No3 to No23 - a number he previously wore during his career in France - Matthew Upson is set to swap No15 for No5 and Jimenez is likely to wear the No11 shirt.
Youngsters James Tomkins, Jack Collison and Junior Stanislas are all due to move up the order at No24, No25 and No30 respectively. However, fans should note that all squad numbers, including these, are subject to change until confirmed with the Premier League prior to the big kick-off on Saturday 15 August.