Shane's World: Players aren't helped by baffling schedule
CHELTENHAM Town have got off to a good start to the season with a positive performance against Burton Albion on Saturday in their opening League Two game.
Then there was that dramatic comeback with an extra time winner on Tuesday evening against League One Crawley Town in the League Cup.
All this has come at a cost, though.
Two players I noted as key men in last week's column – Jamie Cureton and Steve Elliott – have gone off injured in those games.
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Fingers crossed for a speedy recovery for both as they are big players for Cheltenham.
I can never understand the way the football season starts and the way that the game is scheduled.
Players finish one season in early May and their next competitive game is three months later in early August.
That is a big lay-off for anyone and fitness levels drop quickly when you're not training.
Clubs do their utmost to get their players in tip top condition with well designed training programmes in order to be ready for the first kick-off.
But at same time they protect them as they are valuable assets.
If a player has a pain or a tightness of a muscle they are often told to sit out and rest to prevent further injury.
All this goes on and then the season kicks off with three games in eight days.
I felt really sorry for the Blackpool and Preston North End players on Monday evening playing a game 48 hours after they walked off their game on Saturday.
Recovery in top-level sport as a whole is so important and to go straight into this busy schedule seems crazy and in some instances expensive for clubs having to replace these injured players.
Any sports scientist in the world will tell you that recovery is just as important as any training session.
Europe, Harry and Marlon - it's been a really busy first week!
THIS week I have been on my travels watching some football.
Last Thursday, I went across the border to Wales to see Swansea take on Malmo in their Europa League qualifier, and saw a comfortable win for the Welsh side.
On Saturday, I went down to watch my old team Bradford City take on Bristol City where both clubs were playing their first league game in the English third tier.
The game saw Marlon Pack enter the fray as a second-half substitute to make his debut, and what a good debut it was.
He was only on the pitch for 20 minutes but he did well and produced some super long passes that the Cheltenham faithful have become used to associating him with.
I personally believe he will do very well down there. Sean O’Driscoll, the manager, is a football man and will utilise his strengths.
I have a few Bristol City fans as friends so I will be able to keep tabs on him and report back to you.
Tuesday saw me head back down the M5 for the third time in a week to watch Exeter take on QPR in the Capital One Cup.
The game was a one-sided affair and QPR were worthy victors, but it’s no surprise given the crop of talent they have to choose from.
There was hardly room for all their backroom staff on the bench, let alone the subs.
With boss Harry Redknapp, assistants Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond, a goalkeeping coach, physio, strength and conditioning coach and a kit man all on the bench, poor old Steve McClaren had to settle for a seat next to me and some noisy Exeter diehards!
Best of luck to Ashleigh
I MENTIONED last week that I recently met Cheltenham girl Ashleigh Ball at the Cricket Festival.
She is competing for England at the European Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, starting later this month.
They are in a pool with some top teams and play Spain on the 17th, Germany on the 18th and Scotland on the 20th – that’s three games in four days.
And there was me going on about recovery being important!
What do me and the hockey tournament organisers know?
We wish Ashleigh and the squad all the very best of luck and she will be sending me updates on their progress after each game.
Why not make your own mind up and tune into the games yourself which are all being shown live on the BBC red button.
Duffo's Top Tips
CHILDREN can never be good enough with both feet.
From a young age my advice is practise, practise, practise with both feet.
At the very top level it would be hard to say that you can improve Lionel Messi.
But imagine if he was just as good with his right foot as he is with his left, he may score even more goals.
I waited until I was in my 20s to really work on my left foot and it actually went on to become more reliable than my right so it is never too late to improve.