The Danske Bank NIFL Premiership season gets underway on Saturday when Linfield welcome visitors Carrick Rangers FC to Windsor Park (3pm ko).
Last season Carrick maintained their Premiership status only after navigating a play-off tie with Institute (5-2). Newly appointed manager Davy McAlinden's remit for the season must be to ensure survival in the Premiership and hopefully with it, bring some much needed stability to the club. After a major recruitment drive, McAlinden will be fielding an almost unrecognisable starting XI from the Carrick side which played at Windsor last season.
Linfield begin this campaign looking to reignite the euphoria and excitement generated by last season's treble haul of trophies and of course those two historic Champions League games with Celtic. David Healy has continued his strengthening of the squad with Josh Robinson (York City), Robert Garrett (Portadown), Jordan Stewart (Swindon) and Andy Mitchell (Crusaders) all signing on. But perhaps David's most astute piece of business has been the re-signing of NI international keeper Roy Carroll. The importance of Roy's presence in the dressing room and his inspired performances on the pitch, cannot be overstated enough.
As Premiership champions, Linfield are now there for the other title contenders to try and knock off their pedestal. But this is a pressure that both the management and players will relish as they compete for the four trophies that are on offer this season. It promises to be another exciting season, with no doubt plenty of twists and turns along the road. It is always ideal to start the season off with a win and hopefully, the Blues can deliver against Carrick on Saturday COYB!