So it begins again. The joy, sorrow and insanity of the football season. 46 games over 9 months where only a few things are certain: we are going to moan, we are going to be very cold, and at the end of it all, whether we finish 1st or 24th, we’re going to be wishing our summer away begging for it to come back so we can do it all over again.
This year, we’ve wished our summers away so that we can wake up on Saturday morning and cross the country to go to Accrington. Call us mad they may, but this promises to be a great occasion with many intriguing questions set to be answered. How will the Rovers adapt to life back in the basement tier? Will Accrington be as formidable as they were last term? Will we actually have eleven men fit to play in the game?
That last one has been the main talking point over the last couple of weeks. A ludicrous run of bad luck has befallen the club before a ball has even been kicked in a competitive setting, with no less than four players going off injured in a friendly with Newcastle and several more hitting the treatment room, severely depleting the manager’s available resources.
New defensive maestro Mathieu Baudry will not have recovered from an achilles injury in time to make his debut at Accrington, whilst fellow new boy Joe Wright is also a fitness concern. Long serving midfielder Paul Keegan is also out, as is Gary McSheffrey. Joe Wright may be fit to make his debut against his former club, and there should also be Rovers bows for Matty Blair and John Marquis. Luke McCullough joins all those previously mentioned on the treatment table with a season ending injury.
Another Accrington old boy now in the hoops, or rather not in the hoops as he’s a goalkeeper, is Ross Etheridge. The young stopper impressed in the Stanley side that surprised everyone to make the play offs last season, and looks certain to be the new first choice between the sticks for Darren Ferguson this season.
Accrington themselves have been busy replenishing their squad this summer after losing several key men, including Etheridge. Josh Windass and Matt Crooks have departed north of the border to Rangers, with Arron Davies and Elliot Parish coming in to the new look squad, among others. Manager John Coleman has a tough task to emulate the superb efforts of his team in 2015/16, but only time will tell if they are up to that challenge.
Both sides will field unfamiliar line-ups this weekend that will need time to gel together, but it is always an exciting time of year when the season gets underway so hold on to that hope, and tell yourself that it can’t possibly go as wrong as it did last year.