WHILE most of the Green Army will be carving turkey and unwrapping gifts, Derek Adams will be on the training ground. Christmas, in football, is business as usual.
That is not a cue to feel sorry for Derek and the players. They know what is expected of any football team, let alone one that tops Sky Bet League Two, going into a festive period that begins with a home game against in-form Wycombe Wanderers on Boxing Day.
Derek brought his players into training on Thursday, just hours after returning to Devon from their 1-0 victory at Newport, which saw them safely into the third round of the Emirates FA Cup, earning a trip to play Liverpool in the next round. Training so soon after the game enabled two things: one to get the stiffness of 120 minutes of football out of the legs, and the other to try to get back to the basics of a normal working week.
“We’ll have plenty of time,” said Derek. “We didn’t get back until the early hours, but trained Thursday morning, and are preparing for Wycombe now on Boxing Day. We’ve got three days to get the players refreshed and ready to go.
“Some of them will have gone on the bike, or gone for a run, or gone in the swimming pool. Those that didn’t play had a training session. It becomes a mixed morning.
“They were in very good mood. They’ve performed very well this season, and it’s great for them to get the opportunity to play at Anfield now.
“We had to recover. It was important that they did that, so we could assess if there were any problems.
“We were working to the purpose of getting back into the swing of things before the Boxing Day game. They will be off Friday, then in on Saturday and Christmas Day.
“We’re training on Christmas Day. We’ve got an important fixture on Boxing Day, so we’ll raining on Christmas morning, then spend a little time in the afternoon with families.
“We’ve hopefully come through unscathed. We have a couple of training sessions to go, but it looks like we’ll have the same squad on Boxing Day."
The plum tie against Liverpool was already known prior to Wednesday’s replay at Newport, but now the reality of the exciting trip to Anfield has dawned, with the game only just over two weeks away.
There are, however, three League Two games to navigate before meeting Jurgen Klopp’s men, though Derek does not believe the prospect of going to Liverpool will distract from the job at hand in the league.
He said: “We’re obviously delighted to progress to the third round, and we have a very good tie in Liverpool away from home.
“We’ve only got two weeks until the game; we have three games to play between now and then. We want to pick up as many points as we can.
“It’s the nature of what happens. If there is a distraction, it is caused by all the publicity. We can’t do anything about that.
“[The players] are obviously delighted that they’ve been able to progress through two tough games against Newport, and to win the first game against Mansfield as well, they’ve been able to show very good character.
“I think it’s very important. It obviously helps a great deal with the cash flow – there’s a new grandstand to be built – and it’s something that can help.”