Ballymena United manager Glenn Ferguson is relishing his side’s opening Danske Bank Premiership fixture of the season.
The Sky Blues will travel to Windsor Park to face Ferguson’s former club Linfield in their season opener on August 8.
“It’s a tough game but as I have said many times, they’re all tough in this league,” Ferguson told Times Sport.
“We certainly have a tough start, with Linfield and Glenavon - two established top six sides - then a local ‘derby’ against Coleraine but I’m never particularly bothered about the order of the games because you have to play them all at some stage.
“We had Linfield in the opening game a few years ago and beat them at the Showgrounds and it gave us a great lift going into the season so hopefully we can make a positive start this time.
“At that time of year, the pitch will be in immaculate condition and it will be nice to play at the renovated Windsor Park.
“Our record against teams in the top six wasn’t good last year so we want to improve on that if we are to break into the top six, but at the same time, we have to maintain the results we have against teams in the bottom six.”
Ferguson’s players began pre-season training last week and the manager was delighted with the condition in which his players returned.
“Everybody reported back in good shape - not one player was overweight and they all passed their initial fitness test.
“It meant they were all in a good position to begin pre-season and they worked really hard last week.”
Among the players put through their paces was former Coleraine midfielder gareth Tommons but Ferguson says he won’t be rushing into offering the player a deal.
“Kyle McVey had asked if Gareth could come up and do pre-season with us after returning from Australia.
“We’ll keep an eye on that situation but midfield isn’t really an area of priority for us - I would be happier if I could get another centre-back and centre-forward just to add a wee bit of depth to the squad,” added Ferguson.
United play their first pre-season friendly at Championship Two Dundela this Saturday (3pm).