One of the few benefits of Covid-19 in recent weeks has been the delayed return to pre-season training for Dundalk FC.
Having played up until December 10th last year, the Lilywhites squad had originally been due back in the first week of January to prepare for the forthcoming campaign only for the lockdown to see this date pushed back until Monday.
Head coach Filippo Giovagnoli believes the extended break will be a benefit to his side as they prepare for the new season to commence on March 19th.
Speaking to The Argus on the eve of the return to training on Sunday, Giovagnoli said: “We’re back in tomorrow and we’re looking forward to it. It’s important to begin working as a team together finally after all the restrictions, isolation and other stuff but now we are ready.
“For us the extra break was important because we had many players who played many games right into December so it was a long season for them. It was good to be able to rest but now they are excited to restart.
“They’ve told me they want to go back out on the pitch and work which, as a coach, is what you want to hear but it was good to have that extra period of rest.
“We’ve been working with them as individuals and in small groups for the last two weeks so they are in good shape. I saw a few practices with the fitness coach and they are in shape but tomorrow we can start on speed.”
Giovagnoli, who only arrived at Oriel Park midway through last season at the end of August, said a good pre-season would be important to him to prepare the squad for a new campaign.
“Pre-season is where you start to implement and consolidate a style of play,” he said.
“We need to spend time on the pitch training and to prepare because this is the best moment in the season to build a team.”
While in recent years, Dundalk have enjoyed the benefit of pre-season camps in Spain where a number of fixtures were played, as well as bonds formed with new recruits, Giovagnoli said he was not too concerned that this was not possible this year.
“It’s the same thing for everyone,” said the Italian.
“Of course it would be good to have a camp for pre-season outside the country but this is the period that we’re going through and it’s not going to be only Dundalk affected. It’s the new normality and all teams are impacted.
“The new normality all over the world is this but we have to take this as a positive thing to help the new players adapt in this new environment. It’s not a big deal.”
New signings Alessio Abibi, Sonni Nattestad, Raivis Jurkovskis, Sam Stanton and Ole Erik Midtskogen will be looking to settle in as quickly as possible having moved to Dundalk in the off-season and while the lockdown means there is only limited amounts they can do away from the pitch, Giovagnoli said this would help them focus on football.
“It’s only football at the moment which is even better for me because they’re only going to concentrate on football and improving. We’ll spend the time to do that.
“The players coming here from overseas are coming here to do well so they’re going to be focused on the work and we’ll keep them busy without any problems trust me,” he said.