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NEWS: LEE WILKIE: After five months off, Dundee players will return fitter than ever

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This week the Championship has come back to life after its enforced hibernation.

There were a few clubs shaking off the cobwebs yesterday, though Dundee are holding off till next week.

By my next column, I’ve no doubt there will be a squad of Dees feeling the effects of their first day back.

I know I certainly didn’t enjoy the return to pre-season!

However, I also know things have changed in a big way since I was checking in at Dens Park after the summer.

In those days, you enjoyed your down time – some enjoyed it A LOT – and then used pre-season to get fit again and regain sharpness before the campaign got going.

Now, it’s all different.

In the past, who knows what condition some players would be in after having five months off.

These days, you’ll have guys coming back the fittest they’ve ever been.

They’ve all been given fitness programmes they can do over the down time. It’s been up to individuals to do them and not all can, we’ve seen that with Leigh Griffiths and Celtic.

But I don’t have any worries over anybody in the Dundee squad.

I’d expect everyone to come back in great shape, whether it’s through all the extra fitness stuff they’ve been doing or by shaking off any lingering injuries or niggles.

Then it’ll be just about getting sharpness back into the legs through any friendlies they’ll be able to play. Just like everything right now, it’s unknown territory for every club returning to training.

Gone are the days of doing whatever you want in the summer and then getting beasted in training, though.

The game has changed so much that players just can’t get away with letting fitness slide or they’ll get overtaken by somebody else.

I don’t think the centre-back position will have changed much but full-backs now act like midfielders but still have to defend. Midfielders are all expected to be box-to-box and fitness levels have to be so high.

I know a lot of players have been taking part in the 5k Challenge, trying to beat their times, and their mates as well.

My lad is in the youth team at Dens and he, along with his mates in that side, is the fittest he’s ever been because they’ve been out running constantly.

You’d expect players in the first team to be in the same condition when they return on Monday.

Gone are the days of the likes of Chic Charnley and Charlie Miller – athletes in great shape will be returning to Dens Park next week.

EVEN in defeat Dundee United can find positives out of matches at the moment.

In Saturday’s 1-0 home loss to Celtic, I thought the Tangerines did really well and will feel annoyed at the way they lost.

Celtic had all the possession, loads of shots, but watching the game it didn’t feel like that.

United gave a good account of themselves against the best side in the country.

And you could see by the reaction of the players how disappointed they were with the goal they conceded.

It was a poor one to let in.

But they shouldn’t focus on that. They held the champions for more than 80 minutes, no mean feat.

I’ve sung Micky Mellon’s praises in this column before and I was delighted to see him stick to his guns, even though they faced Celtic.

He showed tremendous faith in playing Lewis Neilson at right-back and Logan Chalmers up front.

That’s exactly what I want to see from a manager.

Neilson especially was impressive.

THE Champions League Final was a pretty rubbish affair, wasn’t it?

We were all promised goals and flair but Bayern Munich and PSG seemed to cancel each other out.

I guess that’s why we love the game, there’s no way of knowing what a match of football will bring.

I think the way the game went suited Bayern, they had more players who just get the job done.

Deserving winners.

GETTING crowds in next weekend, even as just a test, is another big step in the right direction.

It’s great to have Scottish football back, even if just on TV, but fans make the game what it is.

I hope everything goes well.

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