Linfield's new boys are primed for European battles
Linfield fans will see a few fresh faces when they return to Windsor Park tonight for the first time since the painful finish to their Danske Bank Premiership assault in April.
The curtain lifts on the 2015-2016 campaign at the international venue with a Europa League first round qualifier against Faroe Islands side NSI Runavik (7.45pm) but these European battles are crucial preparation for a massive season for Linfield.
Boss Warren Feeney has brought Guy Bates, Mark Stafford, David Kee and Danny Wallace to the club and want-away Portadown striker Darren Murray is also on his wanted list.
The Blues lacked a ruthless touch in front of goal last season which allowed Crusaders to snatch the Gibson Cup but the arrival of former Glenavon favourite Bates should provide additional firepower and take some responsibility off the shoulders of Andy Waterworth.
Feeney said: "Guy has got a run out in pre-season and it's great for him, like all the players it's about building fitness. I've been stressing to the players the importance of keeping hold of the football as we know it's the most important thing to do in the game.
"We are all judged on our performances but this pitch at Windsor Park has just got bigger and that suits us. Fans will see a few new players but it's important to give youth a chance and we have some great young players coming through."
Linfield keeper Ross Glendinning is looking forward to watching Bates demonstrate his sharp-shooting skills in the Premiership again.
"Guy Bates has been added to the squad and I'm looking forward to watching him score goals," said Glendinning.
"He will certainly give us a more ruthless touch this season. There's a very youthful look to the squad now and the two boys from Ballinamallard have come in and look strong. I think if we can show no fear we will do very well.
"I'm well aware the fans are impatient and they want success but the players feel the same way. We understand, 100 per cent, that we need to win a major trophy this season. The gaffer and the players are determined to do that because we know anything else is a failure."
Irish League players normally relish the underdog tag in European football but Linfield will be expected to get the better of Runavik over two legs.
Striker Andy Waterworth said: "We will need to be very disciplined. They are halfway through their season and expected to be much fitter than us. We'll have to be smart and clever and use the ball well.
"We will give it everything we have to make the next round and the new boys that have come in will help us improve."
Runavik drew 0-0 with Fulham back in 2011 and while they kick off this fixture as underdogs, the hosts cannot afford to show any complacency.
Visiting boss Trygvi Mortensen was confident after the draw, stating: "We're well satisfied with the draw.
"The only team we did not want to play against was FK Vojvodina. That's because of the long journey and the eastern European style of football is so much different than ours.
"Linfield were the team we wanted most.
"We have seen them a few times in the Faroe Islands and they have never been frightening, although they have progressed every time. We're not going to sit back and defend against them."
Fans attending tonight's game at Windsor Park will be able to buy a match ticket from the temporary office at Midgley Park prior to kick-off and will now be able to proceed directly to the ground via the route across Midgley Park at the rear side of the Kop Stand.