WELCOME to the new season Newport County fans!
If you’re a football supporter then the opening day of a new campaign has got to be one of the best days of the year and it’s no different for us players.
We’re all excited to get going against Wycombe this afternoon after a long hard slog through pre-season – it doesn’t get any easier at my age I can tell you.
But the start of the season is even more special for me this year for a number of reasons.
When I wrote my last column back in May I genuinely thought it could be my last as a County player but thankfully the manager had a change of heart, as has been well documented, and I’m raring to go for another year in League Two.
Hopefully I’ll still play a major part with the first team and I’m optimistic that I might get a start this afternoon after a good pre-season.
The first team is definitely still my priority for this year but as most of you will know I’ve also taken on a new role as a development coach with the club’s youth set-up.
It’s meant that I’m a lot busier than I’m used to – no more sloping off home at lunchtime for me – but I’m really enjoying the responsibility and working with such talented youngsters is very exciting.
The under-18s start their campaign today as well with a local derby at Bristol Rovers (kick-off 10.30am) in the Football League Youth Alliance South West Division.
I won’t be there today but I’ve picked the team and gone through everything with Danny Elliott and Kevin Waterhouse so I know the boys are in good hands.
They are both great guys and it’s good for Danny to have more of a role than he has over the last few years and good for the youngsters to have some continuity from the last regime.
We’ve changed the system to 4-3-3 so that they are ready to step up to the firsts if they’re called upon and I have already been impressed with how a lot of them have taken to the new ideas.
There are some very talented kids at the club but I won’t pick anyone out in public because they might get complacent and it could upset the ones I don’t name.
I’ll be getting updates from the game and I’ll watch it back on DVD next week before their next FLYA fixture at home to Swindon next Saturday.
That will be how it works most of the time because I’m hoping to be involved with the first team squad all season.
But there will probably be times where I’m injured or I’m out of form or Justin is going with other players in midfield that I won’t be involved and that will mean I’ll be able to watch the youth team in action, which is obviously important.
I’m feeling in the best shape I’ve been in for years because I’ve been training with the seniors in the mornings and going straight over to take the youngsters after lunch.
It’s been hard work but I’m seeing the benefits and all the lads are looking in good shape, as you’d expect.
We’re quietly confident about our chances of success this season because we’ve kept the majority of the squad together and added some extra quality.
The new boys have all settled in really quickly and it’s great to have someone of the quality of Aaron O’Connor back fit and firing as well.
I think we’ve got the right blend of youth and experience and I’m sure the gaffer will look to add one or two more as we go along and maybe two or three will be leaving.
We need to start well, which will be difficult because on paper it’s a tough first month or so of fixtures.
But we have to pick up some points early on and get some momentum going, starting with three points this afternoon.