The waiting is almost over. The World Cup filled a gap, but it’s not quite the same, is it? Football is back and Rovers are back in the Football League!
That feels good to say, as after three years in the National League, Micky Mellon led the team to promotion via the play-offs at the end of 2017-18 with that infamous 10-man Wembley win over Boreham Wood.
So what can we expect from the campaign ahead, which starts with a visit to Stevenage on Saturday afternoon?
Well, there have been a few changes of personnel since the end of last season. The biggest gap to fill has been that of the departure of striker Andy Cook, after his 28 goals played a big part in the success of the side last term. He left the club to join League One side Walsall.
After waiting patiently, or not as the case may be (come on, be honest!), that ‘type’ of striker has come in to replace him in the form of Cole Stockton, who returned to the club from Carlisle United on Thursday.
His return has been greeted with a mixed response from supporters on social media.
I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that the last 12 months haven’t gone as well as he would have hoped, north of the border at Hearts before joining the Cumbrians in the January transfer window.
He found the net just once in the time from leaving Prenton Park to his return this week, not a great return for a striker who has lots of very good attributes, so of course there is a little scepticism around him rejoining the club.
But there are plenty of reasons to be positive about Cole returning ‘home’. Micky Mellon has always been a big admirer of him and seemed to bring the best out of him in the second half of the 2016/17 season. He linked up well with James Norwood and Connor Jennings during that spell, too, two players who remain a mainstay in our squad. And he has played the majority of his career to date in the League, so brings that experience to the group as well.
Let’s hope we see much more of the trademark Stockton finish, back to goal, sharp turn and blasted into the top corner! Welcome back, Cole.
There have been other exciting new faces brought into the squad. Jonny Smith arrived on loan from Bristol City, a talented and tricky wide man who impressed against us last season when playing for AFC Fylde. He’ll be one to watch, for sure.
And to cover for Liam Ridehalgh, who injured his knee in ‘that’ tackle 48 seconds into the play-off final in May, another player returns to the club. Zooooooom Bakayogo (think that’s the right number of Os in his name!). Zoom by name, zoom by nature. From pre-season, he still looks as quick as ever and will be a good acquisition.
So on the pitch, there is plenty to be excited about. And equally off the pitch. The beer tent will be bouncing, as will Aldo’s, as the club continues its drive, alongside the Trust and Supporters Club, to improve the fans’ matchday experience.
And after three months away from it (friendlies don’t count), we’ll be back to walking by the Johnny King statue and doffing our cap to the great man, seeing Dave Goat cheerily flog his fanzine and walk down the newly laid ‘Super White Walkway’.
Your seat is waiting for you, strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride. It’s bound to be another rollercoaster ride.
Stevenage away to kick us off. It could have been better, but equally, it could have been worse. A difficult place to go (have I heard that somewhere before?), it won’t be an easy start.
But Micky and the lads are ready. Ready to play. Ready to battle. Ready to represent the Super White Army in a way which is deserving of the fans who have stuck by the club through thick and thin.
Enjoy the season. And good luck, lads. We’re right behind you.