For the third time in a week, Albion’s players had another opportunity to get used to the ‘new normal’ of playing at an empty Amex when the squad took part in a full-scale practice match on Saturday.
Apart from the injured Jose Izquierdo, the entire first-team squad were involved in a game between teams wearing the home kit, and captained by Glenn Murray, and the green away strip, skippered by Lewis Dunk. Head coach Graham Potter utilised 28 players in total including three under-23s.
The pace never dipped, adding weight to defender Dan Burn’s confident assertion that the squad are fitter than ever despite spending several weeks working out on their own during lockdown before the gradual return to training at the start of June.
On the pitch then little looked different, but the three games at the Amex were organised so the players and backroom staff could get used to the health protocols which will be part of the Premier League at least until this season concludes at the end of July and, of course, playing in front of thousands of empty blue seats.
Midway through each half there was a water break, something which the players will be grateful for during the summer heat.
With no ball boys, footballs are placed on plinths when clearances land in the empty stands and at half-time the frames of the goals are disinfected. Medical staff wear PPE.
No one is pretending that it’s going to be business as usual, but the tempo of the game was good, there were no injuries and Graham Potter must feel that his squad are as best prepared as they can be for the next nine games with a week of training to go before Arsenal's visit. Bring it on!