STUART McCall can feel a sense of normality returning to City’s pre-season ahead of their first game in over five months.

A behind-closed-doors friendly has been arranged at the training ground of a club from a higher division for Saturday.

It will be 23 weeks - or 161 days - since the Bantams last kicked a ball competitively in a 2-0 loss at Salford before football was shut down.

And it is a timely incentive for the players as the intensity levels step up in training.

The squad were put through double sessions to start the week and will do so again today after the club were given the all-clear to move into contact work.

It has made for the more intense days players would expect in the pre-season build-up but McCall reckons nobody should be complaining.

He said: “Obviously you’ve got to be careful with the other things around the training such as not being able to take a shower or the eating. That’s still not normal.

“But certainly the training part is feeling like it should do and we hope it’s enjoyable as well.

“I would like to think that the players appreciate what they’ve got after all that time out. I know the staff are and I’m sure it’s the same with the squad.

“It’s been good so far and we’re really looking forward to another full week.

“We’ve phased the players in. We’ve not done the small stuff yet because we’re not at the fitness level to do that real sharp two v two or three v three work.

“It’s been done on a bigger basis like 10 v 10s or eight v eights etc. Everyone is adhering to what we are supposed to do but enjoying it as well.”

McCall and his staff have been sure to ramp up the competition as they build towards next month’s return to League Two action.

“We always try to put a competitive twist on every drill that we do,” he added. “There have always got to be winners or losers, so we’ve got to make sure they have that edge.”

The players will be given a day off tomorrow before more double sessions for Thursday and Friday leading into the opening friendly.

McCall will be keeping his fingers crossed that the weather holds for the weekend’s game because his team will not be allowed to use the changing facilities to shower. They will have to drive back separately in their playing kit.

He said: "It will be a little bit different because of that. But working towards a game on the Saturday is a boost for everyone.

"It definitely gives the players a target. We've had a couple of in-house games but we'll ramp it up again this week.

"Hopefully it's all systems go now."

A few clubs in the division have already started playing friendlies but McCall is content with City’s timetable.

“I think we’re right in the middle. We unfurloughed some of our lads for the day to go for the testing a couple of weeks ago.

“We were ahead of the game there and we’ve been back before a lot of clubs, maybe behind just a few.

“I think we’re quite happy where we are in terms of the preparations. It’s not much different with previous years, other than we’ve obviously been out a lot longer.”