Hectic schedule creates exciting times ahead for Cambridge United
Cambridge United are relishing the challenge of nine games in the next 30 days.
A congested period of the season starts tomorrow (October 17) as the U’s travel to Scunthorpe United, and it is unrelenting as they play every Tuesday and Saturday up to and including November 14.
It is a period that could ultimately mean their next training session on a Tuesday will not be until December 22.
United have broken down their fixture list into monthly chunks, but there is no getting away from the physical and mental challenges that await.
“We have nine games in 30 days across three competitions, then we have a blank midweek and do the same again,” said United head coach Mark Bonner.
“Having planned ahead, we know that the next free Tuesday we have, the lads will have that day off and therefore the next training session on a Tuesday will be December 22, which gives a bit of an insight into how many Tuesday games we’ve got between now and Christmas.
“We know we’re in for a really busy schedule and a really busy plan, but I think everyone is quite excited about that.
“We chunked our season down in the first block of games to get to this point, and wanted to arrive here in good health physically - and bar Liam (O’Neil) we’ve got everybody available for this weekend - and we wanted to arrive here in good form, and we’re in that situation as well.
“It goes without saying that in 30 days’ time we want to come out in a very similar situation but we know the challenges will be big in that period of time
“We’re pleased with where we are at the moment, but we know the challenges on us physically and mentally over the next 30 days will be massive.
“But that’s something that because of how we’ve done so far, we go into that optimistic, energised and positive looking forward to that change.”
There have been measures put in place to cope with demand.
With no fans allowed in grounds, the evening kick-off times have been brought forward to 7pm, which will allow an earlier bedtime and more rest and recovery.
There will be limited training between the games in order to not burn out the players, and squad management will be crucial.
“It will come down to keeping squads fit, rotating the right players in and out at the right time, so there are massive challenges for us as coaches to get through that period and pick the right teams but try to keep everybody in good health,” said Bonner.
“As we can see, the national picture is constantly changing. I’d like to think we’ve overcome some big challenges so far, and we’re operating in a world that is quite different to what we’re used to.
“But we’re constantly saying to the players - and we had this discussion last week - that our biggest challenges haven’t happened yet.
“There are so many things ahead that we probably don’t know what they are yet, how bad things might get and we will have to ride it out and overcome all of those.”
It is also possible that come the end of this period of matches, the Sky Bet League Two table will have started to shape up.
There is usually a point in each season where coaches and managers talk of getting a fairer reflection of the division, and this could be it.
“I think at that point there will be 12 games gone for everybody - assuming everybody plays during this period and we will have to wait to see how that plays out - it will certainly start to take a little bit more shape,” said Bonner.
“But you can’t define after 12 where it will end up after 46, it just may start to balance out a little bit.
“This may be the most open and unpredictable season we’ve had. This league is always open, everyone beats everyone, you’ve got a chance of the play-offs still when you get to Easter if you’re mid-table or bottom half.
“We know how unpredictable and open this league can be, and it might be even more so this year.”
He added: “Just from our perspective, if we’ve put together a really consistent run and we’re in and around the position we’re in now after 12 games, that will start to give us the confidence and belief we can stick around at that level.”