West Ham United’s preparations for the 2021/22 season got underway on Friday when the first group of players reported back to Rush Green to begin their pre-season programme.
Six weeks after their memorable 2020/21 campaign came to an end, the players not involved with their national teams over the summer – along with a handful following individual programmes – were back on the training pitches, as work began ahead of what promises to be another exciting campaign across both the Premier League and Europe.
With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the players reported back in groups of six players, to undergo tests and take part in drills on the pitches, under the watchful eye of David Moyes, his coaching staff and medical team.
The day began with COVID testing for the players and backroom staff, before a cardiac screen and blood tests, a weight and body fat assessment and physio screen preceded their return to the pitch.
Head of Medical Richard Collinge takes up the story of the first day back. “It’s a smaller group to start with and it’s great that we still have lads at the Euros so we’ll be waiting to see how they get on at the weekend," he explained.
“For the lads that are here it’s back to the usual process with the COVID protocols that the Premier League have set in place, so we’re still stringent in that regard. Then there’s some testing in the gym and physio-wise we’re looking at range of motion in certain joints, muscle strength, and we’re looking at tissue quality.
“The doctors will be screening too, looking at whether players have had vaccinations at this stage, we have to be more stringent with the concussion protocols which have come into place, and there’ll be blood tests, cardiac screens and then they come out onto the pitch with the manager, the coaching staff and the fitness staff to do certain runs and technical elements to get an introduction to the ball.
“It’s a really important day. We want to collect good data, we want to benchmark and see where the players are at compared to the end of last season and how we’re going to plan the pre-season and preparation towards the first game in mid-August.
“It’s a busy day for the medical staff and the conditioning staff but nice to have everyone back.”
The six-week gap between the end of last season and the first day back represented the first true break for many of the players since football returned at the end of June last year – something that Collinge said was much needed.
“The whole COVID process has been tough for everybody physically and psychologically, so we’re assessing where the group are at today for that reason,” he added.
“The off season has been really important in that regard for this group who are here today at Rush Green and we’ll look at the international boys and see how far they progress – but they’ll need a recovery period too to make sure they’re fresh to come back in in late-July, early-August all being well.
“On the whole the last 18 months have gone really well for us a club. We’re pleased as a medical team and the manager is really happy with where we’re at in terms of injury levels. We want to make sure we’re planning ahead for a European campaign and a good Premier League campaign to take the club on again.”
Following another day of tests and training on Saturday, Moyes, his staff and squad will travel to Scotland for a training camp on Sunday, before returning to Rush Green the following week.
Their programme of pre-season games starts next Friday at Scottish Premiership side Dundee, before a pair of pre-season matches against League Two opposition on the evening of Tuesday 13 July with one group of players taking on Leyton Orient and a second facing Northampton Town.