Joe Rafferty can’t wait to get going on Saturday afternoon as Preston North End start their 2020/21 campaign with a first round Carabao Cup tie at home to Mansfield Town.
The fixture against the League Two opposition comes just two weeks on from PNE’s return to training, but full back Rafferty is happy to be back in competitive action earlier than usual.
“We can’t wait,” Raff told iFollow PNE. “It’s better for us, we as players don’t really complain about having to train, we just want to play the games and the quicker you can get the important games in rather than the friendlies the better.
“It’s not been that long at all with the season ending the way it did, but I can’t wait to get back out there. I can’t wait for the season to start again and hopefully we can have the fans back in as soon as possible.
“We want the fans in as much as they want to be back. It’s just little things like when maybe you’re going for a goal, you’re pushing on in a game, where fans can really give you that boost, so we want them in as much as they want to be in so we can’t wait for that.”
Having played in League Two with Rochdale, Raff knows the challenge the Lilywhites may face on Saturday, although friendlies against Salford City and Tranmere Rovers have helped equip the rest of the squad.
Joe said: “They’ve prepared us quite well being in the same league. I’ve obviously played against Mansfield a few times over the years and they’re always a tough team to play no matter if we play them at home or away.
“They’re always going to be well set up and tough to break down so it’ll be a good game. They’ve got some good players and hopefully we’ll get through to the next round.”
Due to the knock-on effects of last season’s later finish, the Carabao Cup will be played differently this year, with the first four rounds to be concluded by the end of September.
The League Cup offers a chance for a Wembley final and gives teams in the lower divisions an opportunity to test themselves against the top teams.
Speaking of his history in the competition, Raff said: “Even though we got beat we played [Manchester] City here last year which was obviously good to play against some of the best players.
“I’ve never really had a massive tie. I think I played Stoke when they were in the Prem one year, but we got beat so it wasn’t great.
“It’s a good competition and even when you go through the season sometimes the manager likes to mix it up and maybe give players a chance who maybe haven’t been playing. It’s a good competition for stuff like that and getting games under your belt.”
After Saturday’s game, PNE will continue with their pre-season schedule which will feature two trips to Premier League opposition.
“You want to play against the best teams and if you come up against teams at the top of the Championship going up to the Prem then they’re just as good as some of the Premier League teams so it’ll be a great test for us against Sheffield United and Everton.
“I’m especially looking forward to the Everton one being at Goodison. Even though I support Liverpool I’ve always wanted to play at Goodison.
“It’s just a shame that some of my friends and family can’t be there but I’m sure we’ll get the chance to play there again.”
To watch the full game against the Stags on Saturday, you will need to sign up for a £10 match pass, with Jonathan Breeze joined on the Sir Tom Finney Stand gantry by former PNE skipper Paul McKenna - click here now to sign up.