The opening day’s always exciting, of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt more thrilled about it than today! Added to that thrill of the unknown as you enter a campaign full of optimism, there’s the relief of actually having a team to watch!
Watching Sky Sports News over my toast this morning, it was odd to feel so pleased to see our fixture roll across the bottom of the screen; you’d have got pretty long odds at the start of the week on it being there.
There’ll be a real buzz about The Racecourse today; I’ll definitely be getting there early just to drink it in. After the heroics of the week, the fans have earned the right to have their day. However, although the atmosphere will drive the players on, we perhaps shouldn’t judge their prospects on what happens today.
Dean Saunders has put together a squad whihc definitely has the potential to challeneg for promotion this season; indeed, if Fleetwood’s spending hasn’t created another Crawley, I’d hope we will be challenging for the title. However, I’m not so optimistic about us getting off to a flying start.
Don’t forget that, due to the problems we’ve had off the pitch, we’re probably a bit under-cooked. Look at the centre of our defence; Chris Westwood has been injured for much of the pre-season and understandably looked rusty in his only game last Saturday at Northwich. Alongside him, Mark Creighton has visibly been gaining match fitness as the pre-season has gone on, but suffered an injury last week which, while not serious, is certainly disruptive as he looks to hit peak fitness by today. With Frank Sinclair and Marvin Andrews not available, Saunders is light on cover, so the liklihood is this under-prepared partnership, which I’m sure will be formidable once the season gets going properly, will have to start.
There are similar stories all round the squad; Andy Morrell, for example, didn’t complete ninety minutes in pre-season. Dean Saunders will have to utilise his bench carefully, I suspect. Lee Fowler’s decision to start the pre-season early looks like a very wise idea, with hindsight!
History tells us not to worry too much about a slow start. In the last three promotions the club has enjoyed, we’ve had to recover from slow starts. In the long term I’ve every confidence in this squad. It lacks depth in certain areas, but the transfer window will be open for a little while yet, and the starting eleven looks sound, at least. However, with two awkward away games to follow today’s opener, we might not get off to a flyer.