Captain Alan Browne feels this weekend’s Championship opener against Wigan Athletic is a “really important one to go and win”.
Preston North End kick off the new campaign with a short trip to the DW Stadium to face the newly-promoted Latics at 3pm on Saturday afternoon.
With so many local clubs in the division this season, just short of a quarter of North End’s league matches this term will be derbies, so there’ll be plenty to play for.
Alan said: “We’ve got a few this year so there was a good chance that one of them would be the first game so I think it gives you that extra incentive going in to a game to want to win, and give the fans a bit of bragging rights.
“It’s not the big derby for us, but it’s a derby nonetheless.
“Three points are up for grabs as usual, so it’s a really important one to go and win.”
The skipper returned to pre-season training – alongside Ali McCann – a week later than the rest of the squad, given his international commitments earlier in the summer.
While that gave him extra time to rest and recover, the 27-year-old admitted at the time he was just keen to get back, and that’s the case even more so now the season is just around the corner.
“I can’t wait,” Browney added. “I was itching to get back in to pre-season for the first time in a long time, because obviously no one really likes pre-season, but having been away, I enjoyed my break, but I just couldn’t wait to get back.
“Now the season’s come around really quickly and I can’t wait for Saturday.
“We’ll be preparing as best as we can to get the three points in that game.”
Every team of course wants to get off to a good start to any season, and Leam Richardson’s side will be no different, having come up as champions last campaign.
Alan said: “We will come out the traps quickly but it’s a tough one to get back in to the swing of things, get back in to the swing of the Championship and understanding how games in this league work.
“You’re not always going to dominate games, we need to come to that realisation right from the start and manage games well and obviously that starts on Saturday.
“Having that knowhow of winning Championship games, they will be right up for it. They’re probably still on a high from last season, and they’ve got a really good side.
“They’re not a typical League One side that comes up and probably happy just staying up. They’re probably going to compete as best as they can, and we’ve got to be right up for that and welcome them back in to the Championship.”
Browne and his teammates will be backed by a sold-out away end at the DW, with 4,700 PNE fans making the journey to Wigan.
With over 11,500 people having also secured their seat at Deepdale, the skipper feels their support could be crucial during the upcoming season.
“It could be massive,” he added. “It does give you a bit of a lift, just seeing that support and obviously we all have social media.
“We all see these things, but to see a packed out away end for the first game of the season sets us up nicely for the season ahead, and when you see those things it kind of clicks that the season’s coming.
“This is it, we’re done with the friendlies and games that don’t matter as such, it’s all about winning and getting those three points, and when you get that backing you quickly begin to realise.”