IT is the moment of truth for Wisbech Town fans on Saturday when they open their 2012-13 Thurlow Nunn League campaign with Walsham le-Willows the visitors to the Elgood’s Fenland Stadium.
After six wins and one draw from seven friendlies, there are many Wisbech people who already have the Fenmen as the Premier Division champions but truth is those wins count for little and now the real stuff begins.
Certainly manager Steve Appleby feels he has a squad capable of lifting the title for the first time since the 1990-91 season but does not take anything for granted.
“There is no doubt we have a squad good enough win the the title, but now the players and myself have got to go and prove it and it will not be as easy as some think.
“Our pitch could be our biggest obstacle. We seem to pass the ball a lot better when we are playing away and just do not play our normal game at home. There is a lot of hard work put into it and it is a great shame.
“We have finished fourth the last two seasons but I think our signings this summer have made us a much better team. We have done well in the friendlies but really all they are about is getting fitness right and preparing for the start and trying different options out.
“The real thing starts on Saturday and hopefully we can get three points on the board. A good start is important as you want to be up there from the start.”
New signings Rogan McGeorge, Dubi Ogbonna, Simon Mowbray and the returning Lea Jordan have all impressed and helped provide Appleby with new options and more than just a Plan A that is for sure.
The boss added: “We played our best football using 3-5-2 during the preseason. It has made us more creative in preseason and helped me change my way of thinking but whether we start this way on Saturday. I have made up my mind about nine of the starting line-up and have a couple of decisions to make. We will see how things go in training this week.
“Chris Bacon and Anthony Reeve are banned for Saturday and Matt Lunn is working but Paul Cousins should be fit.”
It seems almost certain that Appleby will play 3-5-2 to accomodate McGeorge, Reid and Millson in the middle of the park and Appleby admits: “The three lads in the middle have really been on their game and brought the creative side out of us. We have been a lot better all around the park as a result. Last season we worked hard at our game but we could have done with more creativity and we have had that this preseason. The boys at the back have coped with it too with clean sheets and that’s a bonus.”
With Bacon out, it will be Mowbray and Ogbonna who will start up front against Walsham and they did well against Spalding as an attacking unit.
Appleby, commenting on the decision to make Paul Cousins captain again this season, said: “Cousi is like myself on the pitch when I played. It comes natural to him. He is loud and gets into people and can lift others from the pitch.
“It also probably brings his own game on by 20 to 30 per cent. It not only raises his game but he helps brings up others’ games to his level too.
Also certain of a place in Saturday’s starting line-up is the youngest member of the squad Ollie Gale, a player Appleby has great admiration for.
“I took some criticism when I loaned Ollie out to Yaxley last season but he came back a man and a much better player. In our final 10 games last season he was probably our player of the year.
“He has come back this summer and carried on as just before. I am a big admirer of his game and this could be his year. He has worked hard and scored goals and done everything I have asked of him. He will definitely start on Saturday.”
Appleby is also well aware of the pitfalls of having a good squad of 17 players and openly admits that as hard he tries it will be difficult to keep everyone happy. “To be honest in the end I won’t be able to as simple as that. I will try to make sure everyone gets a fair chance and whatever many minutes on the pitch they get they take.
“But if we are to be successful we need a squad of this size to cope with injuries and suspensions and players seem have to bought into what we are trying to do.
“They have to stop thinking about themselves and think of others. The behaviour of the players out of the side will count as much as those in the side. We will not win the title on our own and people are starting to realise that now.
“Hopefully they will stay for the duration and we all get what we want but it is the nature of players that they will want to start games and I am sure some will come and go. Football is the best game in the world but it can also be the worst.”
Bacon will be available for Tuesday’s game at Haverhill but Reeve will be serving the final game of his two-match ban after they were both sent off in the final league game of last season.