Date: 5th August 2016 at 1:49am
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Head coach Paul Heckingbottom and midfielder Conor Hourihane have both been previewing this weekend’s Championship opener against Ipswich Town.

Making the trip to Portman Road for the Championship opener following Play Off success at Wembley last season, Heckingbottom told the Official Site that he was relishing the challenge against the tough and experienced side and he was also looking forward to a real test of where we are at following a successful pre season campaign.

‘They have a similar squad to last season, they`ll play a similar way and they are competitive. I would have thought that they`ll be up there again. This is a great benchmark for us in terms of what the Championship is all about, we`re going to an established team and they`ve always been in and around the play-offs. We`re competing against better players but also higher profile, more experienced managers who have achieved a lot but we`re all looking forward to it. It`ll give us a good gauge of where we are after the 90 minutes.’

With a couple of knocks gained in the Peterborough United friendly, Heckingbottom also confirmed everyone was back in training and fine and the only player who would miss Ipswich was new signing Angus MacDonald who has a suspension hanging over his head.

‘Everyone is fine. We were looking after Adam Davies and James Bree but they`ll be back and hopefully everyone is fit and available for the first game. If we`d have drawn a checklist of what we wanted from pre-season, we`d have most boxes ticked but it only matters what we do on Saturday. You`d like to think that the preparation is right and we have the right level of fitness, it`ll stand us in good stead for the rest of the season and the first game. Angus is suspended this weekend but he`s the only one unavailable. It`s a suspension that`s overrunning from last season but that`s not a problem. He`s got an extra week to become acclimatized in how we play and get some extra fitness under his belt.’

The gaffer of course is hoping to see us continue the momentum we showed from last season as we go to the level above.

‘The big difference is we`ve gone up a league and we have to raise our game, but likewise with planning and preparation, we need to get the best we can out of everyone. We cannot afford to be carrying people at 80 or 90 percent, we need to have bodies to strengthen the side as and when we need. If we`re light in one position, it could mean we lose out on valuable points come the end of the season.’

Adding.

‘As with anything, it takes time but we`ve seen good glimpses in the games and in training. What we need to work on is their roles without the ball. Sam has it down to a tee because he`s worked with us for a long time while Tom has been asked to do different things and it`s about getting him on board. They`ve shown good link up play and if we can get good supply to them, there`s a good chance of them scoring goals.’

As for skipper Hourihane’s questions, he focused on the new challenge, the fact few have played at Championship level so won’t have built up a fear of it, and how he believes we just have to keep the positivity going.

‘The season has come around quick. I didn`t have much time off but we`re all ready to go, pre-season has flown by and now we`ll be preparing for Saturday. We have to take what we did last season into this one and keep snowballing it into the Championship and see what the division has in store. A lot of us haven`t played at this level before but we have to have that no fear attitude and see what the division throws up.’

Having spent time at Ipswich as a 19 year old, he admitted it was strange we opened the campaign against them.

‘It`s funny how it works out and it`s a game I`m looking forward too, especially being a former player of theirs. We`d have had to play them at some point but it`s funny that it`s the opening game of the season. I`m hoping to go down and have a good game in front of them. We only have a couple of days to go and everything now will be geared towards Ipswich and I`m looking forward to games that really matter.’

Adding.

‘There`s a great bond still there and that will stand us in good stead, we`ll have to take the rough with the smooth but sure we`ll be fine. I believe that we have to go in with the attitude of giving it everything we`ve got and we`ll see where that takes us. It`s the old cliché but we have to take it one game at a time but staying up is a big aim but after that, we`ll see. It`s important to get off to a good start as it will breathe confidence into a young squad and that will kick us on and I think we`ll have a good year.’

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