Whitey Anderson admitted to being in awe as he scoured the fixture list for the 2012-13 Irish FA Premiership season.
And while he ran his eye down his team’s schedule for the nine months from August, the Ballinamallard United manager is determined that this time next year the newly promoted Fermanagh club’s name will still be among the list of top flight clubs.
In order to have the best chance of staying in the Premiership Anderson has recruited former Dungannon goalkeeper Alvin Rouse — elected as the top shot-stopper in the league just two years ago — and Anderson is hoping to add more experience to his squad in the two-and-a-half months before the transfer window closes.
The stand out dates for the Mallards start with an opening day home fixture against Dungannon Swifts on Saturday, August 11, before Glentoran make the journey down the A4 for the first midweek game of the season.
The games continue to get bigger as a meeting with champions Linfield comes in early October before the Blues travel to Ferney Park at the beginning of December.
“I’ve been sitting in front of the computer looking at the fixtures and it’s incredible to see our name in there,” said Anderson.
“I’m partly in awe when I look at us in there with big and successful clubs like Linfield and Glentoran and the likes of Portadown and Cliftonville who have been established top flight clubs for a long, long time.
“Someone has already put a league table out with us at the top of it, although I don’t know how long we are going to be there.
“It’s just fantastic for us as a club to see our name there in the first place. There has been a bit of a buzz around the area over the last couple of months, but I expect that to increase now that the fixtures have come out.
“The reality of what we have achieved kicks in now and you see the challenge that lies in front of us.”
The opening day game between Ballinamallard and Dungannon was pre-arranged between the clubs, with the Fermanagh v Tyrone clash being as close to a derby as Anderson’s newly promoted side are going to get.
They will also meet at Stangmore Park on Boxing Day, when the other derby games traditionally take place.
There was no let up in Anderson’s excitement level as he went through the games week-by-week and even if Ballinamallard are languishing in the bottom half of the table, they have a home match with Linfield to look forward to just before the league splits at the end of March.
“I see we have Glentoran coming to us for a midweek game — I’m sure they’ll love that,” said Anderson.
“I look at the home games we have and I’m relishing every one of them. For us to be walking out to play Linfield on October 6 is incredible and that’s one the players will look forward to immensely.
“Every fixture that we have in the Premier League is a little bit of history for the club.”
With just over a fortnight to go before the IFA Premiership’s four European representatives are in action, double winners Linfield and league runners-up Portadown as well as Cliftonville and Crusaders are all back in pre-season training with next Monday’s draws for the Champions League and Europa League qualifiers being eagerly awaited.
They will be in action a full month before the domestic campaign gets under way, with the Blues facing an away trip to Ballymena United — Glenn Ferguson et al — as the kick-off to their defence of the title.
Their first meeting of the season with Belfast rivals Glentoran comes at the Oval on Saturday September 2, this year’s Boxing Day fixture is at Windsor Park.
There will be no love lost when they meet for the third time, at the Oval two days after St Valentine’s Day.