FOOTBALL is finally on its way back, albeit different than ever before.

Temperature checks, hand sanitisers and social bubbles will all be used when the players don the pitch for the first time since March to launch their pre-season training.

For Bradford (Park Avenue), there is the added complication of finding a venue to stage such sessions.

With the instillation of the new 3G pitch at Horsfall not finished yet, Mark Bower’s side have been forced to relocate for a short while.

Another challenge for the Bradford boss was choosing the correct date for a return. The National League are yet to decide when their season will commence.

Bower has selected this coming Tuesday and expects that his players have been putting in the hard work already on their own.

He said: “Pre-season is not a time many people enjoy and it throws up its own unique challenges, compared to the regular season.

"We didn’t want to get the players in too early, we wanted to get it right.

“It has been difficult to try get a venue for the first couple of sessions. The pitch is not too far from being ready so we can’t commit to any type of training venue for a long time.

“A lot of the school 3G pitches, which we have used over the last few years, are closed due to the restrictions around covid.

“We will take no chances if there is anything we are concerned about. Everything we are advised to do, we will do to the best of our ability to keep people safe.

“Once you start training, it gets the juices flowing and you want to get back at it again.

“I am sure all the lads have looked after their fitness levels because that is the type of character which was important for us when we were recruiting. Players with inner desire and good habits.

“They need to get a ball at their feet and we will assess everyone when they are back in. Then we can concentrate more on how we are going to play and utilise that good pitch.”

Usually by this time of the year, friendlies would be in full swing.

In fact, last Thursday marked a year to the day since Avenue earned a respectable 0-0 draw with neighbours Bradford City, eventually losing out on the Tom Banks memorial trophy 3-2 on penalties to the Sky Bet League Two visitors.

Although, it would be behind closed doors, Bantams legend Bower is hoping for the same sort of occasion to open the new Horsfall pitch.

He added: “We have pencilled a few (friendlies) in. It is difficult to fully commit when we don’t know what is going on.

“We will play teams who are lower down the pyramid then us and try play a few higher up as well.

"We wanted to get one or two more friendlies at home than we have done in the past to get used to the new pitch.

“It would be good to get a City down to make it (the pitch opening) a bit more of an event after all the work and investment that has gone into it.”

Park Avenue already have 13 players signed up for the new season with an exciting blend of experience and youth. Although, they are still lacking in one department.

The Horsfall faithful have been blessed down the years with lethal frontmen. Think Adam Boyes and Jake Beesley, both strikers bagged over 20 league goals in separate seasons to help the club reach back-to-back playoff finishes.

One of Bradford’s biggest problems last term was finding the back of the net, only scoring 25 times in 33 games on their way to finishing bottom in the points per game finalised campaign.

Lewis Knight (six) and Tom Clare (five) topped the charts but with the latter departing for Northern Premier League side Buxton, and the creative spark that was Alex Hurst (pictured) returning to Port Vale, Bower has a clear void in his squad.

He said: “We wanted to get a core that we could rely on, which we feel we now have. We can bring some younger ones through and take a chance on players that will benefit from playing with experience.

“The top end of the pitch is really important for us now. We are a lot stronger defensively and through the core of the team, but forward players are a priority.

“I don’t think it will be someone with that sort of pedigree (of a Boyes or Beesley). We are looking to bring in untested players that will improve with us.

“We have got Brad (Dockerty) and Lewis who have that (creativity) in their game. Nicky (Clee) and Jake (Hibbs) create in the midfield too, but it is that number ten/centre forward area where we are a touch short. We will be looking at players over pre-season.”