Even when everything appears to be hunky-dory, you should always have a Plan B and Torquay United manager Chris Hargreaves is well armed ahead of what could be an uncertain day at Plainmoor.
Bury are due on the English Riviera on Saturday for the first of two potentially crucial relegation six-pointers over the next four days with bottom club Northampton Town visiting on Tuesday.
We will have to stop calling Hargreaves the “new” manager soon as he has been in charge for more than a month but United fans, lifted by two wins from his first three away games, are still waiting to welcome him back to Plainmoor.
The club is at the mercy of the weather, the industry of groundsman Chris Ralph and his staff, to say nothing of match referee David Phillips, who will have the final say.
“It would be unprecedented to have the first four games away from home,” said Hargreaves, who has already seen matches against Northampton and Burton Albion called off.
“But we’ve had to make sure we’re ready for anything.
“Fingers crossed the Bury game is on, but we’ve been putting a Plan B together in any case.”
That would almost certainly include an extra training session for the players, but also some research & development for Hargreaves in the transfer market.
Emergency loans are allowed again from Saturday but Hargreaves is also interested in the free agent market.
Scores of players are still talking to their clubs about settlements for the remainders of their current contracts, and they are free to move anywhere once released.
It is as competitive a market as any other, and Hargreaves revealed: “I was speaking to three players on deadline day last week.
“They wanted to come down and play for me, but the other clubs they were talking to were offering £400, sometimes £500, a week more.
“If the gap is £200, maybe you can do a deal, but it just shows what sort of money clubs are throwing around at the moment. I’m still looking, and I still want to bring in a couple more players.”
With five men – Anthony O’Connor, Jayden Stockley, Shamir Goodwin, Aiden O’Brien and Jack Rudge – already on loan, Hargreaves is likely to be concentrating on those free agents.
Only one player, defender Shaun Cooper, is definitely sidelined this weekend – he will be out for another ten days after going over on his ankle in training last week.
Right-back Dale Tonge and midfielder Joss Labadie have been on the “easy list” this week, but both hope to be fit.
Hargreaves stressed: “We’ve given Bury all due respect and attention – they have changed their style of play and their formation in the last few weeks, and we’re well aware of that.
“But after the way the lads played at Portsmouth [1-0] last Saturday, the important thing is to get another performance like that from ourselves.”
Hargreaves acknowledged the key part played in that win by Blackburn loanee O’Connor, who has just been voted United’s January player of the month, and Krystian Pearce in the heart of the defence.
“Had our centre-backs not been so good, we may not have won the game, and Krystian Pearce was very much a part of that,” he said. “The full-backs are going to be beaten sometime, but when the crosses did go in, Anthony and Krystian were there every time.
“Anthony is a leader, by action and by voice – some people think he’s quiet, but he isn’t out on the pitch.
“I think he’s as good at either centre-back or right-back, but he prefers playing in the middle.
“He wants to play at the best level he can, rightly so, but we’ve tried to look after him and he doesn’t want to play anywhere else in this division. I’m delighted we’ve got him to the end of the season.”
Bury seem to be improving under David Flitcroft, their third manager since October.
United won there 3-1 in November, when the Shakers were under caretaker Ronnie Jepson, who had succeeded Kevin Blackwell.
One of Flitcroft’s first “signings” was his assistant Chris Brass who he lured away from Plainmoor in December, where he was number two to then-Gulls boss Alan Knill.
Torquay United (from): Poke, Rice; Tonge, Pearce, O‘Connor, Nicholson, Goodwin, Labadie, Lathrope, Bodin, Benyon, Stockley, Mansell, Cruise, O‘Brien, Hawley, Downes, Chapell, Cameron, Rudge, Stevens, Yeoman, Craig.
Unavailable: Cooper (ankle), Thompson, Hutchings, Sullivan (all out on loan).