It was, according to Vladimír Coufal, the ‘perfect’ summer.
Fresh from winning the UEFA Europa Conference League with West Ham United in his home country on 7 June, and two appearances for the Czech Republic later that month, the defender made the most of the opportunity to rest, refresh and recuperate with those in his live that he cherishes the most.
Time spent on holiday with his immediate family was followed by trip back home, back to Prague, to reconnect with all of his loved ones. It was the longest time Coufal has spent back home in many a year.
“The summer was perfect,” the 30-year-old told whufc.com. “After we won the Europa Conference League, I went for our international duties with the Czech Republic and then, afterwards, I spent ten days out in Rhodes with my family. We also took my parents with us, so it was an amazing holiday for them as well.
“We’ve just been enjoying each others' company, and we also got to spend time with our family back in Prague too. I was back there for another two weeks and it was perfect. I can’t remember the last time I was there for such a long holiday, so it was so nice.”
The chance to nourish the body, mind and soul during the off-season has got Coufal more than ready for the hard work that comes with a rigorous pre-season schedule.
The full-back and the other Hammers who played in internationals last month, except for Ben Johnson and Michail Antonio, returned to the Rush Green training ground last week and have been hard at work getting set for the new season.
A first run-out away to Dagenham & Redbridge on Saturday has been sandwiched by double sessions, and Coufal is relishing every minute out on the grass.
He continued: “Pre-season is going well. Right now I’m feeling tired, and my legs are a bit tired and heavy, but it’s all part of the pre-season training.
“It’s been a tough first couple of weeks for us international boys. While the rest of the group were in Australia we came back in and started our hard work. We’ve all been together this week and it’s been a lot of double sessions, which is tough but it is exactly what we need for the new season.”
Two away pre-season tests in Europe now await the Hammers before the start of the new Premier League campaign.
A short trip across the English Channel is up next for Coufal and his teammates, as they travel to Roazhon Park to face Ligue 1 side Stade Rennais, before a trip to Germany to face Bundesliga outfit Bayer Leverkusen.
Back-to-back European campaigns have prepared the Irons for different styles of play and Coufal is looking forward to testing himself against a Rennes side that has regularly finished among the top clubs in Ligue 1 in recent seasons, and a Leverkusen team that contains some familiar faces. Both join West Ham in this season's UEFA Europa League group stage after strong 2022/23 campaigns.
“For the last couple of years we’ve played European football, so we’ve got an idea of what we can expect when we go to play Rennes or Bayer Leverkusen in the next week,” he added.
“Personally, I’m really excited for the Leverkusen game because they have a couple of Czech players in Patrik Schick and Adam Hložek, so it will be great to see them and play against them at their stadium.
“The Rennes game will also be a good test for us. For the French guys in our side, they have the chance to go back and play in France, and also Nayef [Aguerd] used to play for Rennes also so it will be good for him to see his old teammates. The French league is very quick, with a lot of good, individual players, and it will be good to see how we perform against Rennes.”
Keep an eye on whufc.com, our official app and our social channels for coverage of both pre-season matches.