Stoke City are picking up the pace of their training and hope to squeeze in a couple of friendlies before the June 20 re-start.
Stoke go into a trip to Reading on the back of a 5-1 thumping of Hull… except that last game was three months ago and players have spent most of the time since then training in their own back gardens.
But it’s the same for everyone in the Championship and it remains to be seen just how much the form table has been ripped up.
James Chester said: “It’s got me thinking about the league table again over the last few days. It’s still really tight down there and what’s in our favour is that we’ve still got to play most of the teams around us at home, so we know what we’ve got to do.
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“The break has disadvantaged a number of teams.
“Wigan were down at the bottom with us and in really good form before the break, for example, so I’m not sure how it will affect them. Hull, meanwhile, hadn’t won for 11 league games, so they will be seeing the break as an advantage.”
Michael O’Neill welcomed his squad back to Clayton Wood a fortnight ago and they were back training as a group last Thursday, albeit still following strict procedures in a sanitised environment, with twice-weekly testing for Covid-19.
Players started moving into round-robin matches late last week and stepped up to 11 v 11 games on Friday.
Chester added in his column for The Athletic: “We’re confident that we can do what’s required and since the gaffer has come in, there’s been a really good turnaround in form. He told us this week that he is pleased with the work we have been doing at the moment.
“It’s particularly pleasing for him because he didn’t have the chance to do a pre-season with us as he came in midway through the season. He’s quite enjoyed the last few weeks, having us together and getting what he wants in place.
“Training has been both entertaining and intense.”
But it might be a new-look Stoke to one extent when they re-emerge into the public eye.
“Overall, we’re looking good,” said Chester. “The lads are, too, although during lockdown, there were some dodgy haircuts and beards appearing.
“Most of them have been sorted out now but there’s a few who are desperate for a haircut.
“(Wife) Rea has been doing mine. She gave me a skin-head first and I went into training this week with another fresh trim. Some of the lads were a bit jealous.”