GALLERY: Ipswich Town return to pre-season – with Cheick Kourouma among them

PAUL Jewell’s first team squad – including proposed new signing Cheick Kourouma – have today regrouped for the first time this summer for the official start of pre-season training.

Players had been given individual fitness programmes to continue since the end of last season with Michael Chopra spending time in California at a training camp.

Today, they will go through a series of fitness tests as Jewell ascertains what needs to be done to ensure they are fighting fit ahead of the season opener on August 18 at home to Blackburn Rovers.

Among them were two new faces, headed by French-Guinean midfielder Cheick Kourouma who is expected to sign soon once the paperwork on his free transfer is finalised.

The signing has been delayed slightly by the messy nature of his contracts with former clubs Sochaux in France and Italian side Genoa.

But he joined the first team squad for today’s double session which included a beep test to measure their fitness levels.

A trialist, a goalkeeper who the club declined to name, was also training with the squad. It was not Bayern Munich’s third-choice keeper Maximilian Riedm�ller who is set to have a trial with the club.

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Jason Scotland, still technically a free agent but with him expecting to sign a new one-year deal in the next day or two, also took part, but missing from the training was Elliott Hewitt, the new signing who continues to recover from his hip injury, and former defender Ibrahima Sonko, who has spent time at Playford Road keeping fit as he looks for a new club.

Byron Lawrence was included in the Under-18s academy squad while Nathan Ellington and Jaime Peters were present, looking to prove to Jewell that they still have a future at Portman Road.

Any hopes that ex-Nottingham Forest skipper Luke Chambers might be a surprise attendee were quickly dashed – although we understand the move is progressing well.

Speaking about the return to full training, Jewell said: “It’s all about getting the players fit at this stage and working without the pressure of League games.

“We have done a few things with some of the players in the summer already. We sent Michael Chopra away with Andy (Liddell) to California to a training camp and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas has been at a specialist physical training set-up in London to work on his speed and endurance.

“Things have been going on behind the scenes before the players came back today.”

– Please click on the link to the top right of this page to see a gallery of photos from training this morning