The following article is reproduced from "The Robins' Review" of 8 August, 2015.
IN THE FUTURE WHEN ALL'S WELL
So, we've all undertaken the pilgrimage back to The J. Davidson Stadium to witness the first of the famous Vanarama National playboys take to the pitch at the advent of a new season.
Almost nine years have elapsed since Alty last contrived to register a victory in an opening league fixture enacted on home territory. Stevenage Borough were the victims on that particular occasion in the inaugural game of the Nationwide Conference National Division season staged at Moss Lane back on Saturday, 12th August 2006.
In front of 1,035 spectators, the Robins established a 2-0 half-time lead courtesy of Colin Little's exquisite left-footed volley from Warren Peyton's corner kick after 14 minutes and a penalty converted by Steve Aspinall five minutes prior to the interval. Notwithstanding a rather controversial goal for the visitors scored by George Boyd six minutes into the second half, Graham Heathcote's side proceeded to secure the three points on offer.
Anyhow, to current affairs. This afternoon's fixture constitutes Lee Sinnott's 201st game as the manager of Altrincham FC and he has already proclaimed some some admirably bold and positive objectives for the season ahead.
We aficionados of the memorable Sinnott sound bite had been avidly anticipating this forthcoming campaign's mantra in the aftermath of last season's popular slogan which comprised: “We will roll the dice and see where it takes us.”
To our delight, it duly emerged during an interview with the club's Joint Media and Press Officer John Edwards back in June, when the Robins' boss asserted: “Roll the dice was the approach a year ago, because we had to see what the league was about and let the players get accustomed to it, but we are 12 months on now, the majority of the squad are still together and those who have come in know all about the Conference, so, for me, if we are to keep progressing, the mantra has to be 20-20.”
“If we can attain 20 more goals than last season and concede 20 less, or at least come as near as we can, we'll be making the improvement I'm looking for. That is the target, and not only do the players know it, they know I believe it is achievable.”
Alty concluded the 2014/15 Vanarama Conference season possessing a negative goal difference of -19, the principal deleterious factor being that truly horrendous 12-day spell in September during which the Robins conceded a total of 13 goals in three consecutive games without mustering a single reply.
In order to accomplish Lee Sinnott's ideal aim of conceding 20 goals fewer this time around, 53 is the target. That would represent our best defensive return at this level of football since we finished in 14th position in the 2009/10 Blue Square Premier campaign, having conceded an aggregate of 51 goals in the process.
At the other end, scoring 20 goals more than last season's amount would necessitate achieving a figure of 74 in the goals for column of the league table and Alty haven't scored that many goals in this division since amassing a tally of 77 in the 1994/95 GM Vauxhall Conference season, which saw John King's team eventually capture fourth spot.
Daring aspirations, indeed, particularly since I fully expect the league to represent a far more taxing proposition for the Robins this season.
We have undoubtedly been confronted with a challenging start to the new campaign, as our opening ten fixtures include contests with three of the teams who finished in last season's play-off positions: the bookies' current title favourites Grimsby Town, nouveau riche Eastleigh and this afternoon's affluent visitors.
We also face exacting assignments at Woking and Dover Athletic respectively, allied to encounters with the relatively unknown quantities of Gary Brabin's Tranmere Rovers, Gary Johnson's Cheltenham Town and Gary Mills' remodelled Wrexham. In addition, there are excursions to a couple of grounds where we don't exactly have magnificent records, namely Southport's Haig Avenue and Guiseley's Nethermoor Park.
I think that it would be disingenuous to describe our pre-season performances as being anything other than somewhat underwhelming and also a trifle short on creativity with the zenith being the display against Wigan Athletic and the nadir comprising that defeat at Witton Albion. Nevertheless, I've been watching the Robins long enough to know that pre-season form is by no means an accurate harbinger of the shape of things to come, so let's hope that we've been saving the best for when it really matters.
From a purely statistical point of view, it's worth highlighting that Damian Reeves still requires just one more goal to ascend to outright second position behind the prolific Jackie Swindells (265 goals) in the all-time list of Alty's leading goalscorers. He's currently level on a total of 147 alongside both Graham Heathcote and Jack Helme (although it should be noted that the latter's figure is a minimum, as there are circa 40 missing goalscorers for games played over the various periods when he was with the Robins, which span from 1913/14 to 1928/29).
Let's hope that Damian duly sticks at least one into the onion bag today. Mind you, I'd be perfectly content to settle for Alty clinching all three points at stake this afternoon via an own goal deflected off the beefy frame of Jon “The Beast” Parkin. Moreover, who needs Game Of Thrones when you've got the prospect of watching him clash with our very own strapping Michael Rankine?