Ling anxious as deadline for making loan signings draws near
It may lead them down the road to habitual pessimism, but all football managers must assume that things could go wrong at any moment.
That's never truer than on the injury or transfer front, for whenever a team is just starting to look settled and in form, there's often an unexpected problem waiting round the next corner.
So Torquay United manager Martin Ling admitted this week that the mid-November loan transfer deadline is already marked with a red circle on his calendar.
The Gulls will have played nine games, including two cup ties, by the time that loans are halted for six weeks along with permanent deals, but Ling said: "That's the next big date in my head.
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"It's weird that the loan window shuts at your busiest time of the year – can anyone explain that? – but you've got to be ahead of the ball game."
As things stand, Ling is already stretched by injuries in midfield, where Ian Morris' ruptured achilles tendon is the latest blow. The Irishman is likely to be sidelined for most of the rest of this season.
But Ling won't be looking to strengthen in that area.
"No, I'm looking to the players already here to step up the plate," he said. "Of course, I don't want anyone to get injured, but the area where we are best covered is central midfield. If we have a problem, the answers are within this club in that area."
But he did admit: "I can't really afford to lose a centre-forward or a centre-half."
Ling has three players who would call themselves specialist strikers, in leading scorer Rene Howe, Ryan Jarvis and Ashley Yeoman. Billy Bodin is more of a winger.
Senior centre-backs Brian Saah and Aaron Downes are backed up only by rookie pro Kyrtis McKenzie in the heart of defence. McKenzie, 19 later this month, did make a gutsy senior debut, when Downes was suspended, in a 1-1 draw at Port Vale five weeks ago, but it would be a big ask to expect him to take over for an extended period yet.
Incidentally, first-choice goalkeeper Michael Poke is supported by the experienced Martin Rice, and there is no problem at full-back, where Ling is well served.
Several of United's "fringe" first-teamers will be given the chance to press their claims in Tuesday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy tie at home to Yeovil Town and, while it may not quicken the pulse of too many fans at the second-round stage, it will be much more important for many of the players who will start that match.
It is a real chance for the likes of Yeoman, Jarvis, McKenzie to show their manager that he has "answers within" in areas other than midfield.