Senior Coach Sam Mitchell is "on the improve" as he continues to recover from pneumonia, says General Manager of Football Rob McCartney.

Mitchell contracted the illness while on holidays with his family in New York and spent a period of time in hospital. 

Speaking as the players returned for their first day of training in the new year, McCartney said Mitchell was in good spirits while still being in the USA. 

"I actually spoke with him as the boys were training today - he's going well, the vibrance is back in his voice," he said.

"He's definitely on the improve, and part of that is making sure that he does get that time to recover and be that person he was before Christmas when he left.

"We were concerned obviously because he was in a foreign country, we couldn't provide the same level of support we probably could if he was here in Melbourne.

"We were really lucky that we've got a current board member in Anne-Marie Pellizzer and a former board member in Andrew Kaye who played quite a significant role in mobilising the right support on the ground in New York, so we were comfortable once we had those things in place.

"His wife Lyndall did an amazing job in caring for Sam while he was in hospital, but while also managing three kids over in New York.

"We want to make sure that we continue to provide that great care that Lyndall did when he was away, when he gets back."

McCartney said Mitchell would likely make a phased return to the club in a limited capacity from next week.

"We expect him to be back in our program early on Monday, he won't spend full weeks in our program initially when he gets back," McCartney added.

"When we get a line of sight and an eye on Sam we'll have a bit better of an indication as to where he is at.

"He was really unwell there for a few days, obviously in hospital during that Christmas period, so we're just ensuring that we take a phased approach with him coming back.

"We want him at 100 per cent fitness as quickly as possible instead of maybe coming back a little bit early and doing a little too much and having that linger for a while."

McCartney said the club has built an experienced and skilled coaching group that could successfully manage while Mitchell is not present in the program. 

"Over the last couple of years since Sam started coaching, we've built a really experienced and skilled team we've had periods (where we've been without Sam before) and we've found that we can manage without an interim senior coach," McCartney said.

"Particularly during this time of year when you're not playing games, we do a lot of planning pre-Christmas about what this first week looks like, so everyone knows what they're doing.

"We've put a lot more ownership back on our players to take some real control of our future, so it gives them a chance to step up as well.

"In typical Sam fashion, as he's got better, his influence on what's going on and what we're going to do has become more and more, but we're really keen for him to rest."

Hear more from McCartney below.