INFLUENTIAL skipper Tommy Elphick insists he will be ready to hit the ground running when Cherries return for the start of pre-season training on Saturday.

Defender Elphick, who led Cherries to a top-10 finish in the Championship last season, was troubled by a nagging back problem towards the end of the campaign.

The 26-year-old has been monitored over the close season by medical staff at the Villa Stuart Sport Clinic in Italy and has been following a strict rehabilitation programme.

Elphick has visited the FIFA-accredited facility in Rome three times – including a day trip yesterday – and has been given the green light to go full throttle when Eddie Howe’s squad report back.

Speaking last night to the Daily Echo, Elphick said: “It is a precaution and a case of prevention rather than cure. I took a knock to my back when we played Yeovil in April and it jarred. I went up for a header early in the game and someone caught me accidentially.

“There was a bit of swelling around the SI joint (sacroiliac joint) which is quite low down on your back and you don’t get a great deal of movement there. I played the next game against Sheffield Wednesday but sat out when we went to Ipswich on Easter Monday.

“It was a minor problem which we had to nurse a bit. I have been going out to Italy where I have been assessed by the staff. It is a great clinic with all state-of-the-art facilities and we are very fortunate to be able to use it.

“I have seen a specialist and been given a programme of exercises to work on. I also had a course of three injections to relieve the swelling and it is a matter of trying to keep on top of it so it doesn’t happen again in the future.

“I have built up my back and it is much stronger. The last thing I would want would be to get to Christmas and for it to stiffen up and be sore again. The work I have been doing over the summer should ensure that won’t happen.

“I have been training hard in the gym and will be able to really go for it from day one in pre-season which is such an important time for every professional footballer. There will be no holds-up and I will be ready to kick on.”

Elphick, who has been doing extra training with a number of his team-mates during the past few weeks, added: “Gone are the days when people disappeared for six or seven weeks over the summer. You are a footballer for 12 months of the year now.

“A lot of the lads have been in the gym and into see the fitness coach and support staff. With the way things are with technology, you can’t just stop for the summer and then expect to pick things up when training starts.

“You need to try to get that edge. Some need rest and others need to keep going and you just have to find that balance. We have a great bunch here and everyone will be ready to go on Saturday.”