The players have returned to training in accordance with protocols as outlined by the EFL, working in small groups with the coaches, maintaining social distancing.

The smiles on the faces of the players spoke volumes when they returned this week, having gone a full two months without training at Rockliffe.

“It was good to see all the lads that were in at the same time,” said the captain.  

“I’ve not seen everyone yet because we’re in at different times, but just to be back and get back on the pitches feels excellent, and it feels like we’re getting closer.” 

The squad have been working a variety of drills under the watchful eyes of Jonathan Woodgate and his coaching staff.

“It feels like pre-season in some respects,” said the skipper.

“There’s lot of running and small groups. There’s obviously no contact and we’re working within social distancing guidelines, but we’re using footballs which is nice. 

“We’re waiting for the next steps now. When it moves to the next phase and we can have contact it’ll feel very close.

“A lot of the lads are watching the Bundesliga and seeing what’s happening over there, and we’re all looking forward to stepping things up over the next few weeks now and playing again.”

The Boro captain has been limited to just six appearances this term due to injury – his most recent was in the 1-0 home defeat by league leaders Leeds United in February – but he is now back fit and contention for the remaining games of the season.

“I’ve been working really hard and doing my own programme during lockdown,” he added.

“It’s been nice to come back and train with the boys, and be back involved and feeling good. 

“They are all looking strong and well, and hopefully we can move on to full training soon.”