After months of waiting, National League football is back for Chester FC this weekend and Blues boss Jon McCarthy can’t wait to get started.
McCarthy, handed the reins at the Blues on a permanent basis at the end of last season after three straight wins secured their league safety, takes his Chester side to Gateshead on Saturday (3pm) for the opening fixture of the new season.
Nine new faces have joined the Chester squad during the summer and McCarthy has stamped his own authority on the squad and has seen them deliver a successful pre-season campaign.
And while the Chester boss would have liked a home game to start things off he is relishing the chance to head to a much-fancied Gateshead side managed by an old friend of McCarthy’s, Neil Aspin, a teammate from his playing days at Port Vale in the 1990s.
“I’d want a home game, a good crowd and some excitement but, actually, if I’m going to Gateshead then I would see that as more of a problem for them,” said McCarthy, whose side rounded off pre-season with a 2-1 defeat at home to Burnley under-21s.
“They have had a big turnaround and have got a lot of new faces and are clearly having a big go at trying to achieve something and having a big push towards the play-offs so I think that is an environment I can sell to our players. They don’t have the intensity that we can create when we have a big crowd. I fancy that.
“There is expectation on them. I’m looking forward to going there and causing some trouble in the North East and taking something from there.
“Neil Aspin was my right back when I was at Port Vale so I know him very well. The last game I had here I saw him and he’s one of the good guys in the game but he is one of the worst losers in the world.
“I remember when his Halifax team won here, he spent an hour having a drink with you but when we beat him you couldn’t find him. If I haven’t seen him after Saturday then that can only be a good thing.”
McCarthy knows that the pressure will be on from the get-go and that a bad start will soon see questions asked.
But he believes that the groundwork put in by him, his backroom team and the players will stand them in good stead for the forthcoming campaign.
“I know how it works. Three games in if we haven’t won any of them then I know exactly what to expect as I was on the end of that,” said McCarthy, who signed a one-year deal as Chester manager in May, succeeding Steve Burr.
“I know that if we win the first three then I know that everyone will want to shake my hand.
“We have done a lot of planning, a lot of organisation and the players and my backroom staff have done everything that I asked of them and I can’t thank them enough. If you work hard then you get results and there will be manager working harder than me this season, I can assure you of that.”