Gareth Ainsworth says the start of the new campaign will be an exciting time as he aims to get his players “firing on all cylinders” for the opening game.
The Chairboys face two of Ainsworth’s former clubs in Lincoln City and Port Vale in the first two weekends of the Sky Bet League Two season, with a Carabao Cup first round tie against Fulham sandwiched in between.
His squad return to pre-season training next week and the Blues boss says he and his staff will be doing all they can to prepare the players for the visit of the Imps on day one.
“I had some really good times at Lincoln,” he said in an interview on iFollow. “It’s a great game for us as a club; they’ve sold a lot of season tickets and they’re on a roll from last year when they won promotion and had a great cup run. (Manager) Danny Cowley is a good guy and it’ll be a tough game, but we’re at home, and we want to start the way we finished last season, so it’s a winnable game for us.
“Then it’s Port Vale, another of my old clubs. It’s always nice to go up there although it won’t be easy as they were a league higher last year, but they’re two tasty opening fixtures, and we’ve also got Forest Green near the start who are another team in a different division last season.”
The pre-season optimism ahead of the 2016/17 campaign was dampened by an injury crisis in the opening month which saw the Chairboys collect just one win in the first seven league games – a situation Ainsworth is keen to avoid.
“Last season we started poorly and we needed a few more points, but I’ve learned from that. We signed a number of players and we didn’t get round to playing the way we wanted to early enough, but injuries definitely hampered our start and we’re addressing a few things to try and keep everyone fit in pre-season. Everyone will get their fair share of minutes in the friendlies and our medical team will get them in tip-top condition so that we’ll be firing on all cylinders when the Imps come down,” he said.
The cup tie with Fulham is a repeat of the 2015 cup tie at the same stage, when the Cottagers sneaked a 1-0 victory at Adams Park, and Ainsworth says his players will look forward to taking on Championship opposition once again.
“We did really well against them a couple of years ago and it took a couple of big hitters to come off their bench and beat us,” he said. “We relish the challenge – that’s what this competition is all about, having the chance to play against a Championship club and the prize money is huge if you can win the early rounds. It’s a big test but it’s a home game and we’ll give it our best shot.”