Despite narrowly missing out on the Championship play-offs last season, anticipation for the 2008/2009 season is high at Gresty Road.
It's been a lengthy summer since a last minute Rob Hulse goal for Scunthorpe denied the Alex their first ever crack at Premiership football on May 3rd. It looked as though England would make it up the for disappointment for us, but you can only wonder what could have been had Alex legend and Liverpool & England striker Dean Ashton not strained his hamstring 24 hours previous to the final.
Perhaps recent success since finishing 9th in 2004/2005 has clouded our expectations but last season hurt none the less. Heavy investment with the money Ashton's record £7.5million sale in summer 2005 was the only way forward, the club saw that and took the game. Some shrewd signings from Dario, including David Nugent and star striker Pavol Suhaj, have been complimented with the likes of record-fee signing Madjid Bougherra.
The change in mood from the dark days of summer 2005 is truly magnificent, with Ashton leaving and Neil Baker jumping ship for the manager's job at Stoke just days later it was looking bleak. It turned out for the best, with Ashton's fee being spent wisely whilst Steve Holland's no-nonsense hair dryer treatment as assistant manager was a long time in coming.
Two 8th placed finished in 05/06 & 06/07 forced the football league to sit up and take notice with the solidarity of the team only match by that of the club & fans relationship. The play-off push from the last 12 months marked natural progression and had club captain Gary Roberts not so imminently retired in February to become a Buddhist monk we may well have picked up those extra 2 points earlier in the season secure that 6th spot.
Quite rightly, it means next season's expectations are high. Over 6,000 season tickets were sold within the first 48 hours after the club reduced them to just £150 per adult. Chairman John Bowler's ambitious plans, as announced at a recent AGM, seem to be coming to fruition with the first stage of building the new Alexandra Arena begins in October.
Having beaten off Oldham and Bristol City for some fantastic new signings this summer, thanks to the work of chief scout Glyn Chamberlain, along with fan favourite Ben Rix being named the club new captain it seems as though things have never been rosier.