This is what Phil Parkinson has in store for Sunderland squad as they return to training today

It has been a long four-and-a-half months for the Sunderland squad but today they finally return to training at the Academy of Light.

Wednesday, 29th July 2020, 7:00 am

Confirmation last week of a September 12 start date for the 2020-21 campaign meant the wheels could finally be put into motion in terms of preparing for the new season.

The squad, who have been on furlough during the Covid-19 pandemic, informed last week that training would resume today at the club’s training base.

Phil Parkinson now has six-and-a-half weeks to prepare his squad, which he will be looking to add at least half a dozen players to, ahead of the new season with Sunderland targeting promotion at the third attempt.

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Denver Hume in action for Sunderland against Bristol Rovers.

March 10 was the last time Sunderland kicked a ball in anger, a disappointing 2-0 defeat away at Bristol Rovers that ultimately sealed their fate, the Black Cats finishing outside the play-off places when the table was finally confirmed via points-per-game.

Since then players have had to maintain their fitness levels at home, while also enjoying a break during a lengthy lay-off from competitive action.

Parkinson is planning a gentle introduction for the squad – incorporating pre-season testing – before the intensity is ramped-up the following week.

“I feel [today] is the right day to bring them back, it gives us six-and-a-half weeks to prepare for the start of the season,” he said.

“A normal pre-season lasts around six weeks, and this gives us a chance to have a few days where we can spend some time with the players, ease them in, and do some testing, getting them ready to start training properly the following Monday.”

Sunderland haven’t confirmed any pre-season games yet and when they do they will be behind closed-doors.

Though there is fresh hope some fans could be allowed back inside stadiums as early as September, though further details are yet to be confirmed.

The return to training will coincide with a range of protocols to follow around social distancing and the Covid-19 testing. Players were informed via email on Monday about the new safety measures.