Paul Tisdale is keeping his fingers crossed that the sickness bug which forced the Exeter City manager to name himself on the bench on Saturday has subsided ahead of this weekend’s Devon derby.
Tisdale revealed earlier this week that the likes of Danny Butterfield, Aaron Davies and David Wheeler had all lost weight and Pat Baldwin was barely fit enough to complete 90 minutes in Saturday’s 1-1 home draw with Portsmouth due to illness hitting the camp.
All four of those players did feature in the 2-0 Capital One Cup defeat to Bournemouth at St James’s Park on Tuesday evening, although Davies and Wheeler both came off in the second half.
But, having had four days to recover since Tuesday’s cup match, Tisdale is hoping to have a noticeably stronger squad at his disposal for the first Devon derby this season.
“There were three or four players who had been ill all of last week, lost some weight but still made themselves available for the game against Portsmouth,” Tisdale explained.
“Hopefully those players will be fitter, stronger and have more energy to bring to the team for the weekend to boost the team.
“Danny Butterfield, Aaron Davies and David Wheeler had all been ill for the best part of a week and lost some weight and were in no real state to play 90 minutes.
“Pat Baldwin managed to play 90 minutes, albeit with a big effort on his part because he wasn’t really fit to play the whole game but we didn’t have anybody else in his position.
“That’s the sort of thing that people do not always realise when they watch football – in many other walks of life, he would have spent the day off work and in bed.
“But to play 95 minutes against a very strong team is something we are very grateful and proud of.”
Tisdale is also sweating on the fitness of both Liam Sercombe and goalscorer Tom Nichols, who picked up injuries in the draw against Pompey.
Nichols did manage 90 minutes against Bournemouth, but there was no sign of midfielder Sercombe, who was forced off against Portsmouth with an injury.
Should the duo be fit, they will face an Argyle side that went down to a surprise 1-0 defeat away to newly-promoted Cambridge United on Saturday, and exited the League Cup 6-5 on penalties to Leyton Orient after a 3-3 draw.
John Sheridan has strengthened his squad with at least nine new players over the summer as they look to build on last season’s 10th-placed finish.
And Tisdale is wary of the potential for a backlash as they look for their first points.
“Off the back of losing at Cambridge, I expect there will be a reaction from their team and their manager, so I don’t by any stretch think it is going to be easy,” said Tisdale.
“We all know it is going to be a very big ask when you see how much Plymouth have recruited and strengthened their squad.
“The game does have extra meaning though and we will be hoping to produce a good performance and get a result.
“It takes on more importance and I would be lying if I said it was just another game, but I will still ask the players to focus and prepare themselves as always.”
Tisdale also dismissed any notion that off-field events at St James’s Park could prove a distraction for his players, insisting that some could actually benefit from the situation.
The transfer embargo imposed following the club’s £100,000 loan from the Professional Footballers’ Association has meant some players have seen rather more match action than they might have expected pre-season.
Tisdale said: “There are members of the team at the moment who are benefiting from us being unable to sign players.
“Perhaps in a simple way, everything that has happened has helped galvanise the team because, in essence, they are happy to be in the team and have the opportunity to play. They can get their heads down and try their very best.
“I don’t think you will find any player who is going to be grumpy about the situation when they are getting the opportunity to play.”