One club’s epic end-of-season schedule: 11 games, 24 days, no time to train

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English club Truro City are preparing for a gruelling 11 games in 24 days as part of a fixture backlog that would enrage even the most placid Premier League manager.

The Cornish side’s season has been wrecked by wet weather and ground-share complications, leaving them with just under a quarter of their 46 National League South games to be played in less than a month.

In the same period, Manchester City have a meagre seven matches as they aim to repeat last season’s treble of Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup crowns. Imagine how Pep Guardiola would react if his team had to play a match every 2.18 days.

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Ahead of Friday’s game against Slough Town, Truro have 42 points and sit 19th in England’s semi-professional sixth tier having played 35 games — four fewer than their opponents and as many as six fewer than some teams in the division. They are two points above relegation, but could still technically make the promotion playoffs if they go on a winning run between now and April 20. Realistically, though, given the problems that have plagued their campaign, survival would be considered a big achievement.

Their task has been made even more difficult by the fact that their nine remaining home games will be played 196 miles from Truro. Homeless after leaving Treyew Road while they wait for a new ground to be built, Truro began the 2023-24 season at Plymouth Parkway’s Bolitho Park, 53 miles north of the city in the far southwest of the U.K.

The English winter — the wettest in 130 years, according to the Met Office — eventually rendered it impossible for two teams to play at Bolitho, forcing the White Tigers to move to Taunton Town’s Wordsworth Drive, 125 miles away from the Cornish capital. They did not play a single game there in the end. Taunton’s pitch has also struggled with the weather and Town, Truro’s relegation rivals, are also dealing with fixture congestion.

And so to Gloucester’s Meadow Park, where they have played their past three home matches on the artificial pitch, including Tuesday’s goalless draw against Dartford, whose manager Adrian Pennock pointed out it was a long way for his team and their supporters to travel on a rainy weeknight. The irony was presumably lost on him that Dartford, 143 miles from Gloucester, had a shorter journey than Truro.

“We have lost a massive advantage that we have at this level, which is when teams have to travel down to us,” Truro’s assistant manager Stewart Yetton told ESPN. “We are really grateful to Gloucester, who have stepped up and not taken advantage of our situation, but we are basically playing as an away side — the ground is much closer for some of our opponents.” That may change in the coming weeks as Truro become more acquainted with their temporary home.

Truro’s run of games means they play Friday, Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Only two of those games are away fixtures, while they also still need to find a date to play Eastbourne Borough at home after the original fixture was suspended last week due to an injury to an Eastbourne player. Training, in the meantime, has been cancelled.

The bigger problem may now be fielding a side in each match as players struggle to juggle family and professional commitments with the travel involved over the next 24 days. Yetton jokes it could even come down to him and the manager — former Plymouth Argyle and Southampton midfielder Paul Wotton — lacing their boots up and playing up front.

“We have one of, if not the smallest budgets in the league, so we have preferred to work with a squad of around 17 to keep the quality high,” added Yetton, who is the club’s all-time leading scorer with over 200 goals. “That’s up to about 18 or 19 for this run-in, but [Wotton] is on the phone to players pretty much all day at the moment [as there is no transfer window at this level], although it’s a hard sell: ‘So, we are Truro, but we were playing in Plymouth, now we are in Gloucester …’

“We have lads that just won’t be able to make some games because it means leaving work at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m.. We are also going to have to consider player welfare. Playing so often and with all the travel. It’s a serious consideration.”

Yetton estimates around 150 people attended Tuesday’s game — in contrast to as many as 1,000 they would get at Treyew Road — and many of those were neutrals, away fans and Truro supporters who live in and around Gloucester, although a minibus does depart The Rising Sun pub in the city for the seven-hour round trip.

Truro will be back in Cornwall next season as part of a phased plan to build a new stadium, but no one on the playing side wants to look that far ahead as the most southern-based club in the top six leagues in England prepare for the gruelling run of games in their immediate future.

“We have been handed lemons but we are going to turn them into lemonade,” Yetton said. “In the dressing room, I am pulling out all the clichés about making positives out of a bad situation.

“We are approaching it game by game, but we want to get to 50 points [from their current total of 42] and see how the land lies. We are looking forward to being back in Truro next season, but we want it to be with National South football.”

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