Gary Hamilton says this season's Carling Premiership will be the toughest in living memory.
Hamilton and his Glentoran teammates today set about their quest to retain the Gibson Cup for the first time since 1968 with a trip to Lisburn Distillery with the striker believing that every single game is going to be a battle, providing local football fans with edge-of-their-seat excitement.
Every manager has strengthened their squad this season but Hamilton says the arrival of his old club Portadown back in the top flight spotlight after a season-long absence will provide favourites Linfield and Glentoran with an even tougher challenge to add to that from the likes of Crusaders and Cliftonville.
“We haven't improved our squad that much — we've brought in Richard Clarke who's a quality player and we've brought in a few young lads,” said Hamilton.
“Linfield haven't made too many improvements either but the rest of the teams have really improved.
“Crusaders are going to be a lot stronger this year and Distillery are going to be stronger and Cliftonville are going to be like having a new team with all the players they are getting back from injury. Glenavon have signed a couple of players and they have got Marty Quinn there who will get a lot out of them.
“There is a lot of competition and obviously Portadown are back in the league as well and they will be up there in the top half.”
He added: “It's good for the game that Portadown are back in the league — there are a lot of quality players throughout the squad and it was a shame they were playing (in the Championship) but there will be a lot of teams challenging this year.
“Coleraine were in the top six as well and they'll push again so I think the league will probably be as strong as it has ever been this year.”
Unsurprisingly Hamilton is targeting the Gibson Cup again this campaign, with even the hope of a double at the Oval.
“You always want to do better than the previous season and obviously we won the league last year so we are out to win it again and hopefully pick up a cup as well,” he said.