Preview: Wycombe Wanderers v Morecambe
It's that magical time of year again when supporters of each and every club in the country look forward to the first game of the season with a renewed sense of optimism. Yes, it's a clean slate for everyone, and messageboards all over the land contain posts from fans convinced their side has strengthened wisely and will surprise a few people during the coming campaign.
Hope springs eternal during this brief window, and it's a time to be treasured, because at 5 o-clock on Saturday evening, normal service will resume and many of the same messageboards will be filled with premature predictions of impending doom.
Although it's human nature to jump to conclusions based on your team's opening performance, it should definitely be avoided. The first results of the season can be very misleading.
Take last season in League One for example - On the opening day Colchester United won 7-1 at Norwich City and Gillingham beat Swindon Town 5-0 - Fast forward nine months and Norwich were the Champions, 23 points ahead of Colchester, while Swindon finished in 5th place, a massive 32 points ahead of relegated Gillingham.
Morecambe are Wycombe's visitors for the opening game of the new season at Adams Park on Saturday.
After a pretty average campaign, the Shrimps' late sprint clinched them 4th place in League Two last season with 73 points.
In late March, with only six weeks of the season remaining, they were still in the bottom half of the table, but a superb finish saw them win seven of their final nine games to charge through the pack and establish themselves as the form-team going into the play-offs.
Sadly for Morecambe, that form deserted them in the first-leg of their play-off semi-final against Dagenham & Redbridge. The Daggers were on fire that day and their resounding 6-0 win made the second-leg a mere formality.
To add insult to injury, the now-meaningless second-leg was the final game ever played at Christie Park - Morecambe's home since 1921. It was all something of an anticlimax for their fans, but the Shrimps made the best of it with a 2-1 win, with David Artell scoring the decisive, and last ever goal at the old stadium in stoppage time.
Morecambe's pre-season campaign has been disrupted due to ongoing construction work at their new Globe Arena - a 6,476 capacity stadium which has retained several sections of traditional terracing.
Morecambe's pre-season games
Barrow 5 Morecambe 0
Morecambe 3 Wrexham 2
York City 1 Morecambe 0
Kendal Town 1 Morecambe 4
Blackburn 3 Morecambe 1
Morecambe's summer signings
Former Huddersfield striker Phil Jevons has signed permanently for the Shrimps after spending the whole of last season with them on loan and scoring 18 goals.
Laurie Walker (Goalkeeper) Cambridge Utd
Chris McCready (Defender) Northampton
Paul Scott (Defender) Bury
Andy Fleming (Midfielder) Wrexham
Chris Shuker (Midfielder) Tranmere
Adam Rundle (Midfielder) Chesterfield
James Spencer (Striker) Huddersfield
Stuart Hendrie (Striker) Atherstone Town
Wycombe Wanderers start the new campaign in a positive frame of mind despite their recent relegation from League One.
The dark days are almost a distant memory now, thanks to a string of good results at the end of last season, some shrewd dealings in the transfer market and some encouraging pre-season performances.
In their battle to avoid the drop, the Chairboys picked-up 13 points from their final 6 games, showing a spirit and determination which had been lacking for large parts of the season. The fans noticed the difference and responded by getting right behind the team. If the players and fans are able to recreate the same atmosphere in the early stages of this season, it's possible to see them building a momentum which could carry the Blues all the way to promotion.
Most of the new signings have slotted in well and given manager Gary Waddock a selection headache. Which two central defenders will he pick? Which two central midfielders? and most intriguingly, which two strikers? All the contenders have staked a claim in pre-season.
Jon-Paul Pittman has already scored eight goals including a superbly executed four-minute hat-trick against a talented Chelsea side. Ben Strevens has scored three times and appears to be a useful link-man. And then there's Scott Rendell the most expensive of the newcomers who's also taken both his goals well. It's certainly a nice problem for Waddock to have and whoever he picks on Saturday, all three strikers will no doubt still have a big part to play in a long campaign.
Wycombe's nine pre-season games have seen them score 28 goals and concede 14.
Wycombe 3 Yeovil 3
Chesham 0 Wycombe 3
Hayes & Yeading 1 Wycombe 3
Brentford 1 Wycombe 1
Uxbridge 3 Wycombe 6
Wycombe 1 Reading 2
Burnham 1 Wycombe 2
Wycombe 5 Chelsea XI 1
Farnborough 2 Wycombe 4
Wycombe's summer signings
Nikki Bull (Goalkeeper) Brentford
Dave Winfield (Defender) Aldershot
Danny Foster (Defender) Brentford
Andy Sandell (Defender) Aldershot
Alan Bennett (Defender) Brentford
Marvin McCoy (Defender) Wealdstone
Kieran Murtagh (Midfielder) Yeovil
Ben Strevens (Striker) Brentford
Scott Rendell (Striker) Peterborough
Previous League Meetings
2007/08: Lg2 Wycombe 2 Morecambe 0
2007/08: Lg2 Morecambe 0 Wycombe 1
2008/09: Lg2 Wycombe 1 Morecambe 1
2008/09: Lg2 Morecambe 0 Wycombe 0
The Man In The Middle
Saturday's referee is Robert Lewis from Shropshire. His most recent Wycombe game was the 1-0 win at Morecambe in March 2008.
It's tempting to go for the usual opening-day draw, and I do think the Shrimps will score, but I also believe Wycombe possess the firepower to emerge victorious.
Wycombe 2 Morecambe 1