We all know the cliché: the first day of the season is a time of excitement where anything is possible. It’s truer than ever for us.
This is it. The journey begins here. You can’t guarantee success in football, but we seem to be doing as much as is possible to give ourselves a real shot at it.
Last Saturday’s friendly win over Curzon Ashton should keep our feet on the ground though. It didn’t really contain any surprises, but there were enough clues to suggest that we should control our expectations in the short term.
I’ve already pointed out that our squad isn’t complete yet, and it was obvious in that match. We didn’t control the game against a side a division lower than us, and our makeshift back three didn’t look water-tight.
That’s okay though. I’ve also said that we shouldn’t panic. If the best players are brought in as a result of lengthy negotiations, then so be it. Better to get it right than to rush it. Our defence and midfield are lacking numbers, and injuries have caused further issues at the back. It’s not ideal but as the transfer deadline gets closer, the quality of the players we could lure to The Racecourse increases. Let’s not rush into transfers because they can be done quickly; let’s get quality in and then get going. Sign a centre back in haste, repent at leisure, as they say.
There’ll be high calibre players out there sitting on an offer from us and waiting to see if anything better comes along. As the transfer window’s hours dwindle, hopefully they’ll realise that we’re the best option in town. Likewise, League One and Two sides holding out for offers on players will eventually come to the point where they either accept what we’ve put on the table or accept losing out completely. The impending closure of the window will focus their minds nicely.
I’m not sure why the National League is starting later than everybody else, but it certainly plays in our favour. If we need another couple of weeks to complete our squad, then I’d rather we play as few games as possible before the deadline. We’ve got three games before the end of August: after that our squad has to be complete, and I’m optimistic there’ll be some more quality additions.
I don’t want to paint a pessimistic picture, though. The Curzon Ashton game also contained some very promising signs. Going forwards, we looked devastating.
While we didn’t control the game, I never felt in any doubt that we’d win it. Every time we broke forwards we looked like we were capable of scoring, and if the visitors’ keeper hadn’t made a string of superb saves, we’d have scored plenty and Paul Mullin would have had a hat trick at least.
Mullin has lived up to his billing in pre-season: he’s clearly looked above and beyond the quality of striker you’d expect to see in the National League. His style dovetails nicely with Jake Hyde, who is also fulfilling expectations. He’s a consistent scorer at this level, and takes up really good positions in the box.
Throw in Dior Angus and Jordan Ponticelli and we’ve four strikers who have all been among the goals in pre-season. What a terrific position to be in.
Liam McAlinden, breaking forwards from midfield, has impressed, and his pace with the ball at his feet makes him a terrific player in transitions. Throw in the positive running of Reece Hall-Johnson and Cameron Green on the flanks, plus the passing and shooting abilities of Jordan Davies and Luke Young, and you’ve an attacking unit capable of winning any National League game, regardless of whether we’ll have to wait for another fortnight to complete our defence.