It has been 142 days since the Pilgrims last took to the pitch in a competitive fixture, defeating Macclesfield Town 3-0 at Home Park en route to Sky Bet League Two promotion.
On Monday, they returned to training in very different circumstances, having been given the green light to prepare for the 20/21 Sky Bet League One campaign, which kicks off on September 12.
Speaking on the squad’s return to first-team training, manager Ryan Lowe said: “They have all come back super fit, they have had their programme through John [Lucas, head of fitness and conditioning] and they’re all in good condition.”
With the missive arriving late on Friday afternoon that the EFL season would kick-off in September, the Pilgrims’ coaching staff mobilised quickly to implement a pre-season regime that would comply with COVID-19 guidelines, while also putting the players through their paces.
Lowe said: “It has been tough, but we have got a good group of staff, good people here. We scenario plan right the way through – we change the plans of pre-season, games, training schedules, whatever it may be.
“We have had our heads round it, done it. Fair play to the players, too, they’ve taken it on board. It’s groups of eight at the moment. They’ll go and get showered and changed, fresh kit, come back, and get back to work.
“It’s old school – years ago you used to just get out of the car and go and train. It’s a little bit difficult, but when you’ve got a good group of staff and a good group of players, it just rolls into being nice and easy.”
With the season’s start date now confirmed and the transfer window open, Lowe and his diligent back-room staff are ready and waiting to bring their targets on board.
“As I say, we keep it in house. We have to make sure we get the best competitive squad we can get, which I’m sure we will, and we will hopefully get some news in the next few days,” said the Argyle manager.
Current government guidance suggests that supporters may not be allowed to return to the Theatre of Greens until the season is underway, and certainly not for pre-season fixtures, while league guidelines limit the types of opposition the Pilgrims can face during the build-up to pre-season.
Lowe said: “We’ve changed the fixture list a million times! We had things planned, games at Home Park and training games. We’ve got some good connections – we may take the lads to a training camp somewhere for a week or so and get some games, but we have to stick to the EFL rules and regulations that we can potentially only play teams that have been tested.
“In terms of the games, from a selfish point of view, it’s just about getting games and minutes into the lads’ legs so that when the season does start, we’re ready. We would like the fans to be here, but that can’t happen at this moment of time.”
“I think the group we’ve got, the majority are from last season, and they’re a good group, they’re a good set of lads. There’s times when we have had to change the schedule and told them late. They’ve been good as gold, there’s never a moan.
“They boys have been different class, they have come back in good condition and now we have six or seven weeks to prepare.”