England may be in cricket action against Australia, the sun may still be red hot and the World Cup still in the group stages, but suddenly the forthcoming domestic 2018/19 football season became very real today.
The EFL fixtures were released this morning and all of a sudden Stags fans have the next year of their lives mapped out weekend by weekend.
Mansfield, like everyone, will want to get early points on the board, and the fixtures list they have been handed today offers them a decent chance of that.
The first month has two home games and three away games with a Stags side with promotion aspirations hopefully capable of seeing off visiting Newport on the opening day and Colchester two weeks later.
STAGS FIXTURES 2018/19
Yeovil away is a ground that has yielded seven points in Stags’ last three games there so will hold no fear.
The other two games are away at Football League ‘new boys’ Tranmere and Macclesfield, both just promoted from the National League, inside four days.
They arrive as unknown quantities at this level and it remains to be seen if they can quickly push on and build on their momentum or will find themselves treading water or playing like rabbits in headlights.
The first local derby with Notts County comes shortly before Christmas at home on Saturday, 8th December while the big Mansfield day out in Nottingham for the return will be on Saturday, 16th February.
Many Stags fans laughed out loud when local rivals Chesterfield were relegated to the National League. But I am sure many will agree today’s fixture list looks a little emptier without the two derby games to relish.
Stags’ away supporters have faced some cruel midweek away trips in recent seasons and this time are asked to travel all the way to Morecambe and Crawley on Tuesday nights – neither for the faint-hearted.
It will certainly be hoped Mansfield are not still in need of points going into the final three games with tough-looking trips to Oldham and title favourites MK Dons sandwiching the home clash with Stevenage. Indeed, the last four away games in a row of Exeter, Northampton, Oldham and MK Dons are as tough as they come at this level.
With so little news coming out of the One Call Stadium compared with last summer, it’s hard as yet to for some fans to get the excitement and anticipation going until they know the composition of their squad.
Boss David Flitcroft knows what he needs and where to get it and everyone will be crossing their fingers that his ‘softly, softly’ patient approach to player recruitment pays dividends compared to last summer’s early glut of signings that failed in the end.
But, for now, diaries can be filled in and plans made.