WORCESTER City assistant manager Matt Gardiner believes the fitness levels of the players reporting for pre-season are the best he has seen in his time at the club.

With just over a month to go before the new campaign kicks off, the Blue and Whites are back in training at Little Perdiswell, Droitwich Road.

A mixture of current players, including new signings Mike Symons and Nathan Vaughan, and trialists are being put through their paces three times a week.

Gardiner said: “They have come back in good nick and I was really impressed. This is my fourth pre-season at Worcester and this is the fittest group that I’ve seen on day one.

“Getting fit in pre-season and not for pre-season is a bit of an old-fashioned view. In terms of player education, they know what to put into their bodies and that they’ve got to keep training. If you don’t train for a period of time, your fitness drops off really quickly.

“The lads have done their own off-season stuff so are coming back really fit. The good thing about that is we can get into the ballwork and tactical stuff straightaway.

“It also gives us an opportunity to do some physical work and some strength and conditioning to make sure they’re right for the first game of the season.”

Worcester begin their warm-up programme with a friendly double-header on Saturday, when they take on Birmingham City’s development squad behind closed doors at the Championship club’s Wast Hills base before visiting Coventry Sphinx in the afternoon.

Then, next Tuesday, City will face a Wolves under 21s side at Lilleshall.

It will give Worcester an opportunity to run the rule over a number of trialists as they seek to add to the players retained from last term.

Gardiner said: “It’s a shorter pre-season this year because of the league coming forward a week but that’s OK.

“The good thing is we’re a lot further ahead than we were this time last year when Carl (Heeley) and I were left with about three players.

“We’ve got more players to start with and there are only a couple of areas where we’re looking to strengthen from last year.”

City have also added a warm-up match at Stourport Swifts on Wednesday, July 16.

In addition, they will send teams to Bewdley Town on Saturday, July 19 – the same day as the trip to Stratford Town – Westfields on Thursday, July 24, and Malvern Town on Tuesday, July 29.