In the good old days if the number 10 appeared in print in relation to football it would be followed with a bracketed [ten] just to make sure you knew your eyes weren’t deceiving you.
So, we’ll do the same because, yes, it has indeed been 10 [ten] games postponed since the turn of the year.
With a weekend of solid training sessions under the belt, consolidated by a morning of training on the Brunton Park pitch, we spoke to Gav Skelton about how the group is feeling as their return to action at Harrogate on Tuesday night looms large.
“I think we’re all chomping at the bit,” he told us. “I know people are talking about the amount of games we’ve got to play, but we can’t moan about games being off then moan when that we have to play them.
“It’s really exciting, I think there’s 11 or 12 weeks left and we’ve got lots of games coming up. Hopefully it will be an exciting time.
“Obviously it is disruptive when games are off, but it is what it is. It’s out of our hands and there isn’t much we can do. We prepare for the games, look at the opposition shape and set pieces and things like that, and then it comes to the weekend and you can’t actually fulfil what you’ve prepared for.
“It’s part of the process, yes it’s frustrating, but we’re like everybody and we want to play. We’ve had games off which has meant we’ve had a very stop-start period, but it’s been the same for other teams. We prepare for each game and when they get called off you just have to look at how you prepare for the next one.”
But did the return to training on a full-sized pitch at Kendal signal a return to the intensity levels the lads had been at prior to this unprecedented spell.
“I know we keep saying it, but they are a good bunch and hopefully they get rewarded for it,” he commented. “They’re all desperate to play and I know the fans and everybody around the club is just desperate for some live action.
“Hopefully we can make that frustration work to our advantage and take our energy into the games coming up. The lads have trained well over the weekend and been at full pelt. We’ve had a couple of really hard sessions and got a lot of work into them.
“We’ve also been able to get some work into them tactically as well as getting work into their legs which will hopefully benefit them. Naturally I think you’re bound to lose something by not being outside, but we’re lucky to have the Neil Centre because it is somewhere to train, and some clubs won’t have that.
“We all know you can’t replicate a full-sized pitch and the distances you can get on that, so you do prefer to have that option. We’ll find if the lads feel rusty, but the situation has been out of our control and all we can do is work as hard as we can.
“We’ve had somewhere to train over the last few days and we’ve made the most of it.”
And with the squad looking sharp there’s no doubt it will fire up some interesting selection issues for the manager.
“It’s a very competitive squad, they’re chomping at the bit, and it’s difficult to pick teams, benches and squads when you have players who all want to play and who probably deserve to play,” he confirmed. “That’s the manager’s final decision, which you can kind of pass over to him, but you can feel the competitive edge in training and you can tell that players can feel the pressure of having someone waiting to take their place.
“There are people looking over shoulders in every position and if you want to be an elite team that wants to do well, that sort of situation should push people on to do even better.
“You have to be adaptable in any season, whatever the situation. You get injuries, suspensions, and the five subs rule has changed how things work as well. There are so many factors, the opposition, home or away, players out of form, you just have to react and adapt as things go on.
“That’s all part of the challenge and the excitement of doing the jobs we do, and we’re ready for whatever might come our way.”
Also looking much healthier is the injury situation with just Danny Devine and Morgan Feeney as the longer-term ongoing concerns.
“The manager updated on those two last week and they’ll keep working away,” he said. “They’re both very focused and I know they just want to be back.
“George Tanner obviously had a very nasty injury but he’s working back towards full fitness. He’s a naturally fit lad anyway so we’ll see where he’s at with the training sessions to come.
“He’s been out for a long time so we’ll see how he manages. He has trained of late but we’re still waiting to see how far off he is from a return to action.”