A RETURN to pre-season training is on the cards over the next few days as Athletic begin preparations for competitive football.

Head coach Stevie Crawford is hoping that his players will be back at work “before the week’s out” as thoughts start turning towards the new campaign in October.

Dunfermline will open their Championship season at home to Inverness Caledonian Thistle on October 17 but, before then, they will kick-off in the Betfred Cup at Dumbarton 11 days prior.

That match will be the first of three – the others coming at home to Falkirk and away to Kilmarnock – in the space of seven days before their league opener, and the Pars players completed some fitness testing on Tuesday with physio Jamie Sutton and sports scientist Gary McColl.

Crawford, who this week travelled to Alloa Athletic’s Indodrill Stadium – where his team will train – with his backroom staff to check out its progress, told Press Sport that getting back to training will be a boost for everyone connected with the club.

“Over the weekend, Ross (McArthur, chairman), Jamie and Gary have been working extremely hard in terms of the medical side to make sure that we’re following the guidelines and the protocol that’s been set in place for us now,” he explained.

“We’ve still got a few things over the next day or two to try and iron out but we’re hopeful we can get a couple of sessions before the week’s out, which would be great.

“We are going to be able to train in groups. There are guidelines to section areas of the pitch off and things like that we have to follow, and make sure we’re working within the right numbers, but we are going to be allowed to have contact.

“The challenge for us is making sure we’re respectful of this so that we don’t find ourselves getting further restrictions put on us.

“We’re very much looking forward to it and the boys are desperate to get back training now, as are the coaching staff.

“We’re desperate to get back on the pitch and get our points across, and are looking forward to the season now.

“It brings an excitement, it brings a talking point to people’s lives and, mentally, some people might have been struggling without supporting their teams. Not just ourselves with Dunfermline supporters but Scottish football is a big talking point over weekends and a focus to people’s lives.”

Crawford is now looking to arrange some friendlies for his players to build up match fitness but said even that brings its own challenges when it comes to coronavirus protocols that must be followed.

“Within the protocols, we were maybe looking at trying to play a Premiership side, against a team that could maybe put out a strong reserve team,” he continued.

“But if we play a Premiership side, as the guidelines and protocols stand at the moment, we would then have to do the CAT (Coronavirus Antigen Testing, which identifies the presence of COVID-19) testing. It looks like, at the moment, it’s just going to be the temperature testing for Championship, League One and League Two clubs.

“For our first number of weeks, it’s a case of the boys arriving for temperature testing, then train, then they have to leave.

“We’ve got enough contacts in the game that we can prepare right for the season.”

When training starts, Crawford will have seven new signings to introduce to his squad but, while he confirmed that he is keeping his options open in relation to other targets, he doesn’t anticipate any further business to be conducted imminently.

He added: “Ongoing, we do look at what’s out there and we are monitoring a few situations but there’s nothing going to happen overnight.”