The summer holidays are over for Aston Villa's players, and now the real work begins.
Today marked the first day of pre-season training for Aston Villa, and with just five weeks to go until the EFL Championship season kicks off, there are a number of things to keep an eye on at Bodymoor Heath, Aston Villa's training ground.
Stan the man
Former Aston Villa captain and club legend Stiliyan Petrov announced a few weeks ago that he intended to return to the playing field for Villa this season, four years after being diagnosed with Leukaemia. And whilst this seemed like a nice idea, it didn't seem entirely convincing.
Stan is doing is very best to prove us all wrong though, turning up to pre-season training this morning he looks good for a man who has recently recovered from a truly devastating illness. Petrov doesn't currently have a contract with the club, and will be hoping to impress the new boss and earn himself a chance to contribute to Aston Villa's Championship campaign.
Talking of the new boss...
First day on the job
Today marks Roberto Di Matteo's first proper day on the job, and so begins his task of fixing the on field problems of the Randy Lerner era. The magnitude of this task shouldn't be underestimated, and despite the financial backing of new owner Dr. Tony Xia, it may not be an immediate turnaround of fortunes for Villa.
But if any man can solve the riddle that is Aston Villa, Di Matteo seems to be THAT guy. Experienced and affable, RDM can fix morale issues, and has the footballing knowledge to sign the right players to restore Villa to their former glory. Or die trying (not literally, of course).
Be it Ross McCormack, Dwight Gayle, or even Ricky Lambert, Roberto Di Matteo gets the final say in who Villa sign, which will be essential in ensuring that Villa sign the right players for the system that Di Matteo employs, whatever that system may be.
But it's not all about incoming players...
Gana, going, gone
One of Aston Villa's better players from last season's disastrous campaign was Idrissa Gana Gueye, but unfortunately, this has attracted the attention of better teams in Europe, and thus, his days as a Villa player may be numbered.
He was present as Villa's squad returned for pre-season today (along with Jordan Amavi, who apparently is also attracting attention from elsewhere), but his days at Bodymoor Heath could be numbered, as it has been reported that a return to Ligue 1 could be afoot, thanks to continued interest from Marseille.
Apparently wanting Premier League football once more, Gana's proposed move to Marseille could end up being a temporary one, as a loan spell could allow for a return to Villa should they secure promotion at the first time of asking. A release clause of £7.1 million however makes him an affordable target for several clubs, including Southampton, who were interested in signing the Senegalese international last summer.
Aston Villa getting shirty
Yesterday we reported that Aston Villa's new kits may have been leaked ahead of their Friday release. Today, the club has responded:
An extended holiday
Finally, it is worth noting that Villa's international stars will probably return to the club a couple of weeks later than the rest of the squad. Carlos Sanchez and Brad Guzan featured heavily for Colombia and the USMNT respectively at this summer's Copa America, and whilst Ciaran Clark was a rotation option for Ireland at Euro 2016, all three will be suffering the effects of an extended season.
The Championship campaign is 46 games compared to the 38 game Premier League season, and thus it is worth keeping an eye out for fatigue as the season goes on.
For more Aston Villa news and opinion, keep following 7500 to Holte!