Phil West says...
It’s important to caveat any optimism or pessimism about the opening couple of months’ worth of fixtures with the fact that our squad has not yet been strengthened, but at first glance, I think that August and September’s fixtures have fallen quite kindly for us. It barely feels like five minutes since the season ended, but the release of the fixtures always feels like the beginning of the countdown to the new campaign, and so it’s always a time of excitement as we recharge the batteries over the summer.
Wigan at home on the opening day (the return of Max Power being the accompanying plotline) is followed by three favourable games, from which we must be aiming to harvest maximum points, before rounding out August by welcoming Wycombe Wanderers to the Stadium of Light. In my opinion, and provided the squad is as strong and as prepared as it can possibly be, twelve points must be the target from the first five games. Last season, dropping points at home to mid and lower-table teams was a massive hindrance. This season, it simply must be a different story.
September kicks off with an away trip to Sheffield Wednesday, which could represent a decent early-season test for us, before we face Accrington, Fleetwood, and two newly-promoted teams in Bolton and Cheltenham. All certainly winnable, and matches that we cannot afford to be stumbling in if we want to mount a promotion challenge.
Overall? A good early-season schedule, I would say. Hopefully, by August 7th, the squad will have been revamped, the players will be fully recharged, and ready to come out of the blocks and laying a marker down for what will definitely be another challenging campaign!
Malc Dugdale says...
If the talk that has been talked turns into a walk that we walk very well, then we should have nothing to worry about when facing any opponents in this league, in month one or in the last few fixtures of next season.
Johnson has taken a bold step in releasing as many of the old core team members as he has, and this enables him to go out and rebuild seriously for the first time in his tenure. He has the people around him and the systems to identify the targets, and he has a new owner who will support him financially and in other ways, with no salary cap to constrain us. We have literally no excuses.
Sorry… I will allow Johnson one slight bit of slack - the level of rebuild we are undertaking may lead to a short period of settling in being needed. But again, as Johnson Speakman and others have been in the role for some time already, we should be able to sign players well and sign earlier than previously, so getting the team to gel in the pre-season is very do-able, as long as they do what they should and can.
Referring to the first month of fixtures, we could have got a lot worse, but then what is better and what is worse? Do we want a hard start where we use our new team and tactics to demo our dominance against strong teams and all to come, and we never look back? Or do we prefer a softer run-in, but one where the fans now back in the ground will have high expectations of good play and strong wins?
Facts are, there is no place to hide this season for the players or the coaching staff. Only promotion will do, and having Wigan, MK Dons, Burton, AFC Wimbledon and Wycombe is just the start.
We need to win as many as we did or more than last time, draw less and get the f*ck out of this league. Forget the cups Johnson, top or second, nothing else matters.
Michael Dunne says...
It may be our fourth season in League One but I still think there is no excuse for any fan to be “fearing” any other team in the league.
Wigan will be an unknown quantity, like most teams and it will be interesting having Max Power back in the SOL on the first day. That being said with themselves and Wimbledon our first two home games, we should expect nothing less than six points.
Hitting the ground running and building momentum is exactly what we need, unlike the stuttering start we had under Phil Parkinson last year. In the unfortunate business that is football, a poor start will inevitably pile pressure on Lee Johnson.