Greg Abbott says Carlisle United are not daunted by the League One heavyweights – and has warned Wolves and Bristol City to take nothing for granted in the third tier.
Abbott will hand debuts to Lewis Guy, David Amoo and Reece James as his Cumbrians entertain Leyton Orient in a game that will do much to set the tone or the campaign to come.
Abbott is certain that Carlisle can challenge the very best in the division but knows that by the same token, it will be tough against bigger clubs with bigger budgets.
He has been lifted by the Yeovil story last season and knows that some clubs have suffered a rough landing in the third tier. Wolves are clear favourites to bounce back at the first attempt but Abbott reckons it won’t simply be a case of moving through the gears for the Molineux club.
Abbott said: “There are opportunities but it’s going to be competitive. It should be that Wolves win the league, Bristol City come second and someone like MK Dons finish third and Swindon fourth and Brentford fifth and Sheffield United sixth.
“But it doesn’t work like that, does it? I’d be a millionaire if I could predict the top six in the right order every year. It won’t play out like that because two of those clubs will underachieve, two of the clubs mid-table will over-achieve and two of the clubs in mid-table will underachieve. That’s the game.
“The big clubs have generally found it hard in the first season down and it’s important to get out of the division in the first season. If you don’t, fans lose a bit of interest – you lose a bit of revenue and a lot of support. Then you’ve got to try and get them back. The 10,000 floating Wolves fans if they’re in League One for a few years might end up supporting Aston Villa, Manchester United or Liverpool or Tottenham because they see them on telly.
“The new breed don’t want to watch League One, they want to watch Premier League and that’s a fact of life. We might have been a victim of that in Carlisle - our children are attracted to Manchester United and Newcastle and Liverpool rather than their local team now. I think we’re losing that with all the coverage that they get week in, week out.”
Yeovil’s shock promotion last season was bitter-sweet for Carlisle fans.
As encouraging as it was to see one of the smaller clubs emerge from the pack, Abbott accepts that it was one of Carlisle’s cast-offs who propelled them into contention.
Still, he defends his decision to let Paddy Madden go and will take inspiration from the story of Huish Park.
“It doesn’t happen very often. It’s like Bradford getting to the League Cup final – it’ll never happen again,” he said. “We’ve been a bit of a Yeovil really. We’ve been to Wembley twice, we’ve been in the play-offs within the last six years and we’ve been on the fringe of the play-offs as well.
“Yeovil tells you it is do-able. But you need a bit of luck as well and you have to say they made the best signing in the history of the club in Paddy Madden. You could say that’s our fault but the fact is, Paddy didn’t do it for us. That’s a fact.
“In the time he was here he didn’t show that form but when he went to Yeovil everything he touched turned into gold.
“I wish Paddy well but it was a wonder signing and I’m brave enough to accept that.”