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EFL: Petrov returned and there was a Royals reunion as teams got back in action

11 July 2016

The majority of EFL clubs returned to action in the past week as pre-season really kicked into gear, and there was a particularly poignant appearance for a player in an Aston Villa shirt.

Stiliyan Petrov was forced to retire three years ago after being diagnosed with leukaemia but, after getting back into training with Villa, the former club captain pulled on the claret and blue to play in the first friendly of their Austrian tour, against GAK Graz.

It was a winning return, too, as Roberto di Matteo's side hit eight goals without reply, thanks to braces from Jordan Ayew, Rudy Gestede and Joe Bennett, as well as efforts from Micah Richards and Libor Kozak.

What a sight! @StanPetrov19 back in the #AVFC shirt. 😍😍😍

— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) July 9, 2016

Aaron Tshibola became Di Matteo's latest close-season recruit after he signed on a four-year contract from fellow Sky Bet Championship club Reading.

And the Royals were back in match action on Saturday when they travelled to Meadow Park, home of non-league Boreham Wood, ahead of their trip to Holland this week.

Jaap Stam's men ran out 5-0 winners with Tariqe Fosu scoring twice, and they came up against a familiar face with former striker Yakubu lining up for the Wood.

TEAM NEWS | Ex-Royals loanee Yakubu starts for @BOREHAM_WOODFC. Also starting is Dave Beasant's son, Sam, in goal!

— Reading FC (@ReadingFC) July 9, 2016

Another reunion saw Sky Bet League Two Colchester United come up against their former talisman Jamie Cureton, who turned out for Maldon & Tiptree.

The U's scored three goals in what was their first outing of pre-season, to give John McGreal a winning start as boss.

Image: Maldon & Tiptree v Colchester United (Credit: Paul Simpson - Maldon & Tiptree)

Portsmouth and Leyton Orient were two other Sky Bet League Two clubs to get back on the pitch, as they competed in friendlies on their respective tours of Ireland and Italy.

Paul Cook's Pompey took on the manager's former club Sligo Rovers in midweek, drawing 3-3 despite taking a 3-0 lead, before seeing off Bohemians at the weekend by a comfortable 2-0 scoreline.

Orient, meanwhile, took on the Italy Under-19 national team and suffered a 1-0 defeat. They may have suffered a loss but it was a significant afternoon for Dean Cox and Paul McCallum as the duo started the match to complete their returns from serious knee injuries.

Cox reserved social media praise for the club's physio, and also joked about setting up the opponent's decisive goal in the friendly!

Great to get back out and playing again thanks again to @Webb_Physio for getting me to this point, shame I set there goal up though 🙈😂

— dean cox (@dean_7cox) July 7, 2016

Elsewhere, there was a memorable outing for 18-year-old Stephen Humphrys after he scored twice in Fulham's 3-0 win over Cork City in their first official pre-season game.

The youngster later reflected on his dream start, talking to the club's YouTube channel.

As well as match action and the hard yards on the training ground, pre-season often includes team-bonding exercises for many clubs.

This past week included a spot of white-water rafting for Burton Albion, who are preparing for their first ever season in the Sky Bet Championship.

The squad hit the white-water rafting course this afternoon

— Burton Albion FC (@burtonalbionfc) July 8, 2016

Read more: #FixtureReleaseDay – EFL Season 2016/17 fixtures announced!

It was a busy weekend for Sky Bet League One Oldham Athletic, who appointed Steve Robinson as their new manager.

Read more: Oldham Athletic – Steve Robinson appointed

The 41-year-old was assistant manager at Motherwell and also a coach in the Northern Ireland national team set-up, but will leave both roles to concentrate on his job with the Latics.

Read more: EFL – a selection of stand-out summer signings

And he wasted no time in making his first three signings, as Josh Law, Connor Ripley and Lee Erwin joined the Boundary Park outfit. What a day @OfficialOAFC! Josh Law, Connor Ripley & Lee Erwin - Steve Robinson's first new signings. (images: #OAFC)
— Sky Bet League One (@SkyBetLeagueOne) July 9, 2016

Wycombe Wanderers also made a weekend signing, and it was a big one!

Talismanic striker Adebayo Akinfenwa, known as the Beast, joined on a one-year deal and unveiled the club's new kit ahead of their trip to France.

Read more: Wycombe Wanderers – Adebayo Akinfenwa signs, and still has plenty to offer

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