Former Eagles forward Pete Scantlebury takes his Sheffield team into tomorrow's BBL curtain-raiser against Newcastle fully expecting his former employers to still be one of the teams to beat this season.
Despite concerns from Eagles supporters over the club's failure to replace the firepower lost after the departure of Andrew Sullivan, Charles Smith and Jeremy Hyatt, Scantlebury is convinced that Fab Flournoy's side will still be challenging for honours.
He said: "I expect the Eagles and Rocks will be up there, but Guildford, Plymouth and Milton Keynes have all brought back the nucleus of their squads and I think they will be challenging to win things.
"Newcastle are a tough team to start with, they've brought back the majority of their team, so they are a step ahead of us there. But they've lost three key players, so they may not be in synch, and this may be the best time to play them."
Scantlebury will be desperate to get one over on Flournoy after losing out to the player who helped him win Commonwealth bronze back in January four times out of five last year. The Eagles will face the Sharks at the English Institute of Sport for the first time, although if they are expecting to take advantage of their opponents possibly feeling like strangers in their new venue, they are set to be disappointed, according to Scantlebury.
He explained: "It's a great place to play, and with fans on both sides it should have a good atmosphere. Hopefully, practising and playing at the same venue will be an advantage for us."
Better news for Newcastle fans is that Shawan Robinson is due to jet into the country tomorrow morning and, barring any unforeseen delays or complications, will be able to get to Sheffield in time to make his debut for the club.
Meanwhile, the ongoing Chris Haslam saga shows little sign of reaching a conclusion with the Springfield Honda-backed club eager to take the Great Britain centre on a month's deal while they assess their longer-term options.
Understandably the veteran is only interested in a season-long contract although the more time that Haslam spends on Tyneside practising with Flournoy and his players without signing for London or Leicester, the more chance the Eagles have of concluding a deal.
Having said that, Blake and Flournoy aren't willing to compromise and are continuing to work overtime to identify a suitable import forward to draft in.
The problem is that if they don't sign Haslam in favour of an American, it is likely to mean they will have to wait up to another two to three weeks for a work permit and visa to be issued.