Stoke are expected to pick up the 2019/20 season again on June 20 after an unprecedented 105-day break – and wrap up all nine potentially massive games by July 21 or 22.
O’Neill was only able to welcome players back for training last week and preparations are stepping up to make sure his side, with only a three-point gap to the bottom three, come quickly out of the blocks.
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Captain Shawcross said: “We’ll have to be ready. Everyone is in the same boat and I don’t think we can cry about how hard it is.
“We’ve got a very short time to prepare so we’ll have to get on with it, use the games when they come, hopefully pick up some wins and then build for next season.
“The main thing is to stay in the league. That’s something we weren’t expecting at the start of the season but now we’re in this situation we know we need three or four wins. Let’s hope we can get them quickly.”
He added: “Luckily we’ve got a big squad because there are a number of games and I’m sure we’ll have to rotate a lot. I don’t think it will be possible for players to play every single game. There’ll be nine games in five or six weeks.
“We’re in a fortunate position that we’ve got a big squad with good players and hopefully we can use it to our advantage.”
Shawcross is fit again having spent most of the season as a spectator due to a broken fibula followed by groin and calf strains.
The 32-year-old centre-back has confidence in players and manager that they can pull clear.
“Yes absolutely, just because the way we played,” he said.
“It’s difficult because it’s like a new season and there are some huge games in there but I’d back ourselves against anyone.
“We’ve got nine games and we want to get as many points as we can to get out of the situation we’re in.
“Obviously it’s difficult and if you lose the first couple it gets even worse – but we hope that with the training we’ve done and the preparations, and commitment the lads had away from the club to come back strong, we can win a few games and get on a roll again.
“We don’t know how teams are going to come back after such time off.”
O’Neill and his coaches have been overseeing exceptional training sessions at Clayton Wood which have needed to change on a daily basis as restrictions are laid out and tweaked.
Players are being tested twice-weekly and protection from coronavirus is paramount.
“It was a bit strange last week,” he said. “We were all in very small numbers and there was no real football contact. It was all individual drills, fitness drills.
“This week has been a bit more like it. Just a touch bigger groups but we’re guided by the EFL. It changes every day so it’s quite difficult for the coaches to put sessions on but so far they’re pretty good.
“Hopefully we can get back to playing games very quickly because if we’re coming back on June 20 there’s not much time.”