Cobblers defender Dave Buchanan believes Sky Bet League One is going to be ‘wide open’ this season.
The fixtures for the new campaign were released on Wednesday, with Town kicking off with a trip to Shrewsbury Town, and that match is followed by a tough looking start for Justin Edinburgh’s men.
In the first 10 matches of the campaign they face two teams who made the play-offs last season, Fleetwood Town and Bradford City, two promoted teams in Portsmouth and Doncaster Rovers, relegated Wigan Athletic, a derby against Peterborough United and also dates with ambitious trio Charlton Athletic, Southend United and Milton Keynes Dons.
According to the bookies, Blackburn Rovers are the pre-season favourites to win league one, with Wigan, Pompey and Bradford in the mix along with a clutch of other clubs, and Buchanan believes the title is up for grabs.
“I think it’s wide open,” said the Cobblers left-back, who reports back for pre-season with the rest of the Cobblers squad today (Thursday).
“Pompey will fancy their chances with the size of crowds they get and they are used to winning football matches, as are Doncaster.
“Then you have the teams like Oxford United and MK Dons, as well as the teams that missed out last year, Bradford, Scunthorpe and Fleetwood, who will all be looking to kick on and go one better this year.”
So what of the Cobblers’ chances?
Buchanan knows plenty of players still need to be signed, but he has been impressed with the players Edinburgh has brought into the club to date as he rebuilds the Sixfields squad, and his target is to simply better last season’s 16th-place finish.
“I think we have to improve on last year, in all aspects of our game, because I think we are miles better than where we finished,” said the former Preston North End man.
“On the flip side of that, I think this is the toughest league one that I’ve been involved in for a number of years and it is not going to be an easy league.
“The gaffer is assembling a good squad together, and we will be ready come the first game.”
The build up to that first game starts today when all the players report back to the training ground at Moulton College for testing under the watchful eyes of physio Anders Braastad and fitness coach Pablo Garcia.
Pre-season then starts in earnest on Monday, and although Buchanan admits reporting back never gets any easier, he is ready for the challenge.
“Everything starts again, and it is something you have to get used to,” said Buchanan.
“I’m not going to lie, it is difficult especially when you are doing double sessions.
“The first week or so is just getting used to being on the ground again, getting your feet going, and hopefully not picking up any blisters or things like that.
“But I expect the hard work that comes with the job.”