THE WAITING is over and it's the real thing from Saturday as Accrington Stanley - as a full-time club - kick off their bid for a return to the Football League.
Chairman Eric Whalley has made it clear he wants the top spot in the Nationwide Conference and manager John Coleman and his players are hoping to deliver the top prize.
The Reds finished 10th last season after dropping off at the end but, with the addition of seven new players and with a full pre-season under their belts, bigger and better things are expected this term.
Stanley kick off their campaign with a home game against Nigel Clough's Burton Albion tomorrow before they tackle John Coleman's former club - and one of their title rivals - Morecambe on Tuesday night.
They haven't had the best of build-ups to the season with a loss to Conference North side Southport last Saturday and then a penalty loss to North West Counties side Great Harwood on Monday.
But the manager is confident Stanley will bounce back when the real work begins tomorrow.
"I think what happened over the last week or so might turn out to be a good thing. Everyone is looking up for it."
"Whatever happens tomorrow, though, it won't be for the want of trying, for want of being professional or for want of enthusiasm. I have got to believe that the quality we have got will see us though and I think it will."
The manager still hasn't ruled out new additions soon to the Reds squad. Top of the list is a central defender while he could add another striker to his side.
"There are areas we could improve on and I am still looking for a defender. But we have got a cracking team-spirit here which will take us into the season in a good frame of mind."
"Ged Brannan has been outstanding in training. If you get experienced players like that who still have the appetite for the game it rubs off on other people."
He continued: "I think we are better organised than this time last year and our fitness levels will be better although that wasn't a problem last year. We have made a couple of signings which will make us a little bit stronger in midfield in the way we want to play."
"And I think we have more competition for places now in certain areas - most notably up front."
Coleman isn't feeling the pressure despite knowing he has to get his side involved in a title battle this season.
"We want to improve on last year. We fell away towards the end and a lot of that was to do with our disciplinary record."
"But I have never finished in the bottom half of the table since I became a manager and I don't expect to now."
"We are a strong side and I think this year teams will be more wary of us."
He is without the injured Andy Procter, who has ligament tear and could be out for a month, and the suspended Rory Prendergast for both games.
"Burton have got some good players and Aaron Webster is always a handful. He is capable of getting a goal from a set-piece be it with his head or foot."
"They are struggling for a goalie as they have sold Matt Duke to Hull, who I was interested in, but it won't be easy."
And the battle with his old club Morecambe at Christie Park on Tuesday night could be equally as intense.
"They have made some good signings. Michael Twiss is another one I was after and he too is a handful. They have played in this league for 10 years, they are one of the stalwarts and I expect them to be strong. I think we played well at their place last season, and dominated the game but lost and I think if we do the same this year, I am sure the result won't be the same."
- DON'T miss our 6 page Accrington Stanley feature in this week's Accrington Observer - available from Friday!