Seamus Coleman felt “very safe” training at USM Finch Farm as the Everton captain provided an insight into how Carlo Ancelotti's squad have returned to practice at the Club’s headquarters for the first time since March.
Coleman and his teammates encountered unfamiliar conditions when reporting to the Blues’ training facility on Wednesday after nearly 10 weeks away due to the coronavirus pandemic, with players arriving in kit and – following an induction underlining safety measures – working in small groups for 75 minutes before jumping in their cars to leave.
Right-back Coleman experienced a rush of excitement preparing his kit on the eve of Everton's training return and admitted driving home wearing work gear summoned happy memories of playing for Sligo Rovers in Ireland.
The 31-year-old was grouped with fellow defenders Yerry Mina, Michael Keane and Leighton Baines for a session which featured fitness, mobility and ball work.
“Even getting the kit ready on Tuesday night, you are excited to get back to work,” Coleman told evertontv.
“It’s probably the longest I’ve been away from Finch Farm.
“Driving through [the gates] was a great feeling but it’s definitely a little bit different.
“The Club has taken all the precautions needed.
“We were in in small groups and it felt very safe.
“They told us that would be the case but when you got there, you could see the work that has been put in to make it as safe as possible.
“It is serious, we have to do things properly.
“We are in there together and it is important we are living our lives right outside the place to make sure you do not endanger anyone.
“The ideal scenario is we get back playing Premier League football and to do that, as players, we need to make sure we are doing everything right.
“The Club made sure of that by telling us the rules and regulations.
“We couldn’t wait to get on the training pitch and it was nice to see some of the lads again and get back out there training.
“It is up to us as players now to stick to the rules at the Club and do what is asked of us.
“There are measurements to tell us how far to stay apart and a one-way system around the building, so you are not crossing paths with people.
“It feels as safe as it possibly can and, hopefully, we can move to phase two as quickly and safely as possible.”
Each training group was allocated unique starting times, the first session getting under way at 9am and the final set of players wrapping up at 1pm.
Coleman noted a consensus among players wanting to get back to their jobs when talking to colleagues in his capacity as skipper.
He was keen, however, that training wasn’t a tick-box exercise – and therefore very pleased to discover Everton’s coaching staff had prepared progressive sessions which adhered to the Premier League’s guidelines for managing top-flight football's return during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was with Bainesy [Leighton Baines], Yerry [Mina] and Michael [Keane] and one of the other groups also had four defenders,” explained Coleman, signed from Sligo in January 2009 and capped 56 times by Republic of Ireland.
“It wasn’t a very, very hard session, more easing us back in to make sure there were no injuries.
“There were passing drills and strides and dribbling circuits and we finished with playing out from the back.
“We had the manager, Davide [Ancelotti, assistant manager] and Duncan [Ferguson, assistant manager] for the football element.
“You can still get the work in, it was a very good session and we were in and out as quickly as possible.
“It was enjoyable and I was happy to get a ball at my feet again.
“We all have to go back to work and we are happy to do that,
“But I am sure there are people with nerves as well.
“It’s such a strange time in the world, I don’t think anyone could have predicted something like this.
“You first concern is your family.
“After that, the Club has done everything so well and so professionally, so I was more than happy to come back to work and get back training and, hopefully, get back playing again.”
Coleman revealed days two and three of the initial phase of Everton’s training schedule will follow similar patterns to Wednesday’s sessions.
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The players, says Coleman, have remained “really fit” during their enforced break, albeit he admitted there was no substitute for working under the coaches’ instruction.
As such, players are feeding back to first team Sports Scientist Dave Flower on their conditions after each session, in advance of ‘phase two’ of football’s return – the date for this is yet to be specified – when contact training will be permitted.
Additionally, Coleman is confident of players being immediately tactically alert in training following video analysis meetings during lockdown.
Amid all the technology and forensic planning, however, Everton’s players are tasked with the rudimentary duty of washing their own training kit.
“I rang my mum on the way home from training and mentioned that, our own kit coming home with us,” added Coleman.
“It’s a long time since that’s been done.
“We used to do it at Sligo Rovers when I still lived with my mum and dad, they remember it well.
We did it at Blackpool [where Coleman was on loan in 2009/10] as well.
“It’s not that big a deal and something the lads are more than capable of, I imagine.
Coleman continued: “Getting back, you feel there is some normality coming back to the world… that things are progressing.
“Hopefully that is the case.
“The weather has been great and I’ve really enjoyed my time with my family.
“But we are footballers and this is what we want to do.”