Stoke City will have a new pitch in place since their last match when they finally return to complete 2019/20.
Summer work has been brought forward at the bet365 Stadium, where the playing surface is re-laid after every season.
An artificial base means perfect conditions can be in place in under a month once the top layer is scraped back. And ground staff have taken the chance provided by the longest mid-season break in the club’s history to carry out the work already.
Stoke haven’t played since March 7, a 5-1 home win over Hull, but are hoping to be back in action in mid-to-late June to play their final nine fixtures behind closed doors.
Players who had returned to family homes during lockdown – like Jordan Thompson to Belfast and Nathan Collins to Dublin – have returned to England ready for tests before training starts again in small groups with strict rules on Monday.
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Each player and coach must provide a negative result for coronavirus before being allowed back to Clayton Wood.
Premier League clubs, who have started back this week, are hoping to bring back full contact training by the end of next week as talks continue about setting dates. The Championship will try to follow their precedent – but the route of travel still has to be ratified.
Stoke have four home games and five away remaining as Michael O’Neill tries to finish the season’s task he inherited in November and keep the club in the division.
His side have been one of the Championship’s most in-form since Christmas but it remains to be seen how that will be affected by a break of at least three months.
Only three points separate six clubs from Stoke, in 17th, to Charlton Athletic, in third from bottom. At the other end of the table, there are eight clubs within six points of the final play-off spot.