For Derby County fans, the new season can’t come a minute too soon.
With Frank Lampard having been installed as the club’s new manager in June, it’s been a summer of excitement for the supporters as they see just what he can bring to the table both in a footballing sense and in terms of personnel.
His work has, so far, been impressive. The blip at Mansfield Town aside, their friendly schedule has produced some fine displays, in particular those that saw off Premier League sides Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers which would most likely have given Lampard the greatest satisfaction.
Those games don’t win you any points, however, and Lampard will be acutely aware that it’s what happens at Reading on Friday that really matters.
The Rams will be facing one of their many recent managers in the shape of Paul Clement who will of course be after three points anyway, but will no doubt be a happy man if he can get one over on his former employers.
But the reason the TV cameras will be at the Madejski Stadium is because Lampard is making his competitive debut and, as with much of pre-season, there will be some fanfare surrounding the game as a result.
It hopefully won’t be too long before the novelty of Lampard being a manager wears off. It’s not unusual for an established international player to take a managerial role, but such is Lampard’s stature in the game, his family’s footballing history and the expectation that, if successful, he could even be a future England manager, it means he is under that extra bit of scrutiny.
He seems to be taking it all with a pinch of salt and has come across very well so far. My few media dealings with him up to now have seen him treat those of us firing questions at him with great respect and I’ll make the trip to Reading on Friday as eager as anyone else to see how much all of his summer’s work will pay off.
As for the playing side, most of Lampard’s signings have been made with an eye on potential as much as anything else. George Evans and Floriant Josefzoon both have good Championship experience while one hopes Jack Marriott has the tools in his locker to once again make the step up a level translate into goals.
Mason Mount and Harry Wilson appear to have great careers ahead of them and Derby will provide a huge stepping stone and Lampard a great helping hand.
Defender Max Lowe has been an unexpected surprise package in pre-season and could well be in line to start the campaign at left-back, while Craig Bryson’s return to Pride Park has pleased many a fan and he looks set to become a regular again.
Of the many others still at the club from last season and beyond, it would seem that the days of several are numbered.
That includes striker Matej Vydra, although in his case it’s whether his reported wage demands will be a sticking point for any move away. Lampard could do worse than keep him given his goals record last season but with the recent budget cuts, he may have to be sold unless his salary is slashed.
There’s a welcome positivity around Pride Park at the moment which was much-needed following the play-off upset back in May.
It won’t take a lot to extinguish that should a few results go agains the Rams early on, but for now the vibe is good and the momentum built by Lampard and his players during the summer will hopefully put them in good stead as they head south on Friday night.