Well the season is now less than 1 week away, it's time to let ourselves get excited, then experience all the happiness/sadness and general mix of emotions bring when you beat teams you thought you couldn't, lose to those you felt should be a walk over and see the season unfold.
As far as I am aware we don't have many injuries among the main squad that I would presume to be picked for our opening fixture. Faye being the stand out candidate of being injured, he would be a handy team mate in a fixture where the side will first experience that no Championship side is going to go easy on us and will want to make our life here an absolute misery. Especially when we are one of the favourites to be promoted/win the league. I on the other hand have said from day one that I believe we should make the play-offs, this league isn't easy and it's so tough to predict when you look at some of the teams promoted in the past couple of seasons, no one could have seen Norwich doing so well in their first season, I also wouldn't have said Swansea were a side fighting for promotion, the same could be said for Blackpool last season too. Then you see sides like Nottingham Forest who have been in the play-offs a couple of times and the same goes to our first opponents Cardiff, always there, but never quite acheived their true goal, which should always be a worry, they are always going to be fighting to be up there and the team and fans feel they have the right to be in the top flight, especially now their rivals Swansea have done it.
Now to the line up, we can be thankful we haven't lost our 2 star players over the past few seasons, Parker and Green, so I fully expect them to appear, with the injury to Faye, it makes the back line tough to decide, Reid could come in, yet Spence can also play in the middle. I think a lot of the squad will pick itself though, we've a lot of room for rotation at the start. So here is my predicted team sheet.
Green in goal.
Defenders, Spence on the left, Reid and Tomkins in the middle, O'Brien on the right.
Midfielders, Parker playing a holding/anchor man role, Nolan and Collison in the middle in front of him and Barrera and Taylor in wide positions right and left respectively.
Cole as a lone striker up front.
Subs: Boffin, Faubert, Ilunga, Noble, Stanislas, Sears and Piquionne.
I believe we will line up in a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 hybrid formation as appears to be the case most of the time.
The reason I have chosen this squad is for these factors, Spence and O'Brien as our full backs because I feel O'Brien can play a less attacking Right Back role better than Faubert (if we are 0-0 with 20 minutes to go bring on Faubert to go for it) and Spence because I feel he did well towards the end of last season when called upon and he is a player everyone knows wants to play in claret & blue. If Reid or Tomkins pick up a knock then we'd probably see Spence go in the middle with Ilunga coming on.
Noble people may be saying should be one of the first names on the team sheet and I would normally agree, but with Nolan being captain, he is guaranteed to start and I feel Nobles stronger positions will either be that of Nolans, being the midfield dedicated to picking out passes and trying to win the ball back before relying on Parker and the defence or I could see him playing in Parkers position, Noble isn't afraid to put his foot in and he can pass for fun in that role, I wouldn't be surprised that if Parker goes that will be Nobles future position.I believe that Collison is our best midfielder going forward when it comes to being a threat in front of goal. I have also chosen Taylor because I feel he is our most creative wide player, Stanislas is very good too, but Taylor just has that little more experience to start, but I would want to see Stanislas more as the season continues, I have also chosen Barrera over Sears and Stanislas as I feel if he plays like he can, he could well be a stand out player in the Championship, with fast feet and the ability to take players on time and time again, he could end up creating a lot of chances for us although I could see Sears playing as he is better in front of goal having scored 2 pretty nice goals in pre season.
Cole up front I feel speaks for itself, he is hands down a better player than Piquionne, who I believe has been rather poor and I would happily see Nouble on the bench over him, but I do think West Ham are in desperate need of a proper goal scorer to start in the squad!
Out of the substitutes I can't see much changing although throughout the season but I would like to see players given the chance, Montano, Abdulla and Nouble all looked fairly good in pre season and I feel should be given an oppurtunity to shine, I do feel Hines will have something to prove as well, considering he felt he should get a contract offer from a Premiership team, so if he believes that's the case then he should go out there and show us why he felt that. Also I think Reid will be on the bench normally with Faye being our main defender alongside Tomkins.
I have predicted a hopeful 1-0 win for us at home in our first game, we won't create hundreds of chances but that isn't Allardyce's style, his main aim is to be solid defensively and you can't lose if you don't concede. I would setlle for a draw as Cardiff are not an easy team but I feel a little optimistic.
Lastly, COME ON YOU IRONS!