For Brighton and Hove Albion fans life is good. With their shiny new stadium, a promising manager and easy on the eye approach things are looking up for The Seagulls.
Pre Season: Good, bad or ugly?
Good. Not necessarily in terms of friendly results, but we beat Leicester, Norwich and West Ham to the signature of Craig Mackail-Smith, which was a telling sign of where the club is headed. We also beat the anti-stadium campaigners in our fight for a new ground and have just moved into our first permanent home in 15 years - how magnificent it is, too. We're also back in the second tier following last season's canter to the League One title. All in all, we can't grumble.
Hopes for the season:
Incredibly, the bookies have us at short odds for promotion to the Premier League, which is no doubt based on the fact Leeds and Norwich hit the ground running after coming up from League One last year. But, with my glass half empty, I can't see us sustaining it like Norwich did. With the glass half-full, I'd love to see us have a go at the play-offs. That said, in reality, mid-table respectability and an unwavering commitment to Gus Poyet's naturally neat passing approach and long term ethos, would be great.
Fears for the season:
No fears as such, more paranoia. After everything the club has been through, I have to pinch myself at regular intervals. The ultimate fear would be that it transpires our new chairman is actually a crook who swiftly assumes a new identity and disappears to the British Virgin Islands with the club kitty. The glistening new stadium then gets repossessed, Poyet takes a Premier League job quicker than you can say "Adios amigo" and we end up ground sharing with Gillingham again... What do you mean I'm insecure?
Absolute bare minimum you’ll accept:
That the chairman isn't a crook and the ground doesn't get repossessed. Meanwhile, on the pitch, despite the fact I genuinely believe our best XI is capable of achieving great things at Championship level, consolidation and survival would be more than acceptable.
Fixture you’re most looking forward to?
Crystal Palace at home in late September will be a special occasion. We've not met the old enemy in a few years and now, for the first time in my living memory, we're justified in boasting that we're a bigger and better club than them – we have a better team, a better manager, a better ground and a train station that doesn't shut for four days due a bit of mud on the track. What's more, as if any extra spice were required, our top scorer, Glenn Murray, walked away on a Bosman in June, and promptly signed for Palace 24 hours later.
Got the right manager?
Ce Senor. Now leave him alone, big boys, please.
Our new stadium is the world's first to offer local ales that will specifically cater for each away team, depending on the locale of the opposition.
By Christmas you’ll be…
Top five I hope. We'll probably need a bigger squad and more tenacity for the second half of the season as the stern old heads plot ways to stifle our keep ball regime. I fully expect a lull come February/March, but I hope we don't get found out, or punished for playing the right way. In League One last term, no opposition could cope with our expansive passing play. However, The Championship will be an entirely different proposition. And, as we found out in the FA Cup at Stoke last year, we don't have a full XI built for battle.
Player you’d most like to sign?
I know Michael Owen was considering a sojourn by the seaside during the close season, but it seems Fergie has convinced him that bench warming is the new goal scoring. And leaking £60,000 a week at the bookies is better than scraping by on a relative pittance. Anyway, to answer the question, I'd like to see us lure a holding midfielder with a strong pedigree and a commanding presence. In a dream world, Scott Parker, Nigel De Jong or Lassana Diarra. More viably, Shaun Derry would tick a lot of boxes. I imagine he'll seldom get a game for QPR in the Prem, but he has been outstanding in The Championship for a good few years.
Which player should we look out for?
We have high hopes for our 17-year-old England youth international, Jake Forster-Caskey. The son of ex-Spurs starlet Darren and stepson of Brentford manager Nicky Forster, he's a dynamic left-footed ball playing midfielder who's been attracting comparisons with Jack Wilshere. But as his Brighton academy coach told me, Jake's not predisposed to dribble and commit defenders like Wilshere, and is actually more akin to fellow Brighton youth team product Gareth Barry. If that turns out to be the case, we won't be complaining.
Which player would you love to ditch?
Goalie Peter Brezovan's calamitous antics tarnished the recent curtain raiser at the new Amex Stadium. The giant Slovakian somehow managed to pass the ball straight to Tottenham's Jake Livermore, who, ten yards out and with an open goal in front of him, slotted the winner home in a 3-2 defeat we didn't deserve. Undoubtedly a significant presence and a talented shot-stopper, the 6ft 6ins former Swindon keeper struggles with the ball at his feet, which is drastically unsuitable for the 21st Century game, especially in a team that by nature uses its keeper to restart every passage of play.
Opposition hate figure?
Glenn (JUDAS) Murray
Tell us something we don’t know about your club?
Our new stadium is the world's first to offer local ales that will specifically cater for each away team. As well as our own Sussex-brewed tipple, Harveys, a different beer will be sold in the away end each week, depending on the locale of the opposition.
What won’t happen this season?
Gus Poyet will not spend more than 10 minutes sat down in his dugout.
The new North Stand version of St Pauli's 'We Love You' chant has proved somewhat controversial in its infancy because it's a bit of a rip-off of a song Palace sing at Selhurst. But I'm enjoying it nonetheless – here's hoping it catches on.
Where will you finish?
Any other news?
We've just signed a promising Dutch striker by the name of Roland Bergkamp, who is apparently Dennis' nephew. The lanky 20-year-old has already said: "I don't have much contact with my famous uncle, I've only spoken to him once." Here's hoping this is not another 'George Weah's cousin' situation.
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