Shrewsbury Town and their third tier rivals are preparing for the start of an intense period, heightened by a more condensed period due to the pandemic, writes Lewis Cox.
After a weekend off, Ricketts’ side travel to Loftus Road tomorrow, the temporary home of AFC Wimbledon, whose new Plough Lane ground is not yet completed. It is one day over 38 years since Town played at the home of QPR, when the Rs won 4-0 in 1982.
Town will play 19 games in the next 78 days between now and January 2, averaging out at once every four days.
Ricketts is boosted by the possible inclusion tomorrow of Shaun Whalley, who limped out of Town’s last league game a fortnight ago with a calf injury. But long-term absentees Rekeil Pyke, Ryan Sears, Matija Sarkic and Dave Edwards are still missing – although the latter is close to a return to light training.
And the Montgomery Waters Meadow boss, who is hunting a first League One win of the season at the fifth attempt, knows the weeks and months ahead will be demanding.
He said: “I’d probably rather have had a weekend off in a couple of weeks’ time!
“We haven’t really been busy yet. From now it’s going to be a very, very hectic period of time with games.
“It’s one which every team is trying to get ready for as best they can but I don’t think anyone is really ready for it.
“It’s going to be a bit of survival of the fittest – whether that’s on the injury front or coronavirus issues which are affecting a lot of clubs now and we’ve had our own issues as well.
“It’s going to be a busy time.”
Ricketts continued: “Every manager would like, within reason, as many players as they can.
“We are very similar number-wise to last year, but this is a more congested fixture list so if anything we should have more players this year as well as working within the financial constraints.
“We’ve got good strength in depth but players may have to play out of position because of the injuries and suspensions that will occur.”
While the Town boss is still contending with a handful of injury absentees, he does have Daniel Udoh and Ro-Shaun Williams back for selection after the duo missed two games while isolating. The boss said of the Covid situation: “We’ve had a couple (missing) so it’s nice to sit here and say we don’t. Although it seems to be phone calls on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, so I might turn my phone off tomorrow!”
Ricketts, who turned 39 last weekend, has also been able to use the time off for an international break to bed in new recruits Leon Clarke, Matt Millar, Jan Zamburek and Deyan Iliev.
Loans Iliev, Millar and Zamburek are in line for league debuts.
Tomorrow’s hosts AFC Wimbledon, managed by former ‘Crazy Gang’ midfielder Glyn Hodges, have made an assured start to the campaign.
The Dons have won and drawn two of their first five league games – although they have taken just one point from a possible six at Loftus Road since leaving Kingsmeadow.
“They are a well-organised team, similar to us in one loss to start the season,” Ricketts added.
“They work very hard, are very honest and all understand what is asked of them.
“We’re looking forward to it, we’re in good spirits, the performance level is good, a good attitude.
“All we haven’t done is turn a few draws into wins which they have done. We’ve been very unlucky not to do so. We have to keep going and the goals and points will come.”