Ask a St Mary's regular today whether they will be celebrating one step forward in May and most will probably say they should be. Looking at results against the top six last season and there is plenty to be positive about.
Undefeated against the promoted trio of Norwich, Leeds and Millwall and with a win and a defeat in the matches with Huddersfield, the only blot in the copy book was a double defeat to Swindon.
It’s always difficult to predict what you’re going to get from relegated teams and, at this stage, you would expect the main threats to come from the grouping of Sheffield Wednesday, Plymouth and Peterborough.
As for the ‘established’ League One teams, Huddersfield and Swindon should be there or thereabouts and Brentford, Colchester and Bristol Rovers will look to improve upon largely strong showings last season.
Notts County, Bournemouth, Rochdale and Dagenham and Redbridge as the promoted quartet will all look to get off to a strong start and, with Bournemouth providing the local derby that most will have laughed at ten years ago, the two League matches against them will be passionate encounters that must not be underestimated.
It is the bread and butter games that will make the biggest impact upon the season’s outcome and this is where the old adage of winning your home games and drawing the aways comes into its own.
If that’s the minimum requirement, you will get ‘bonus’ away wins from time to time and success should follow.
Achieving promotion this season is actually more necessity than a wish and it would be great to do it in style winning by four, five and six most weeks but being realistic that is unlikely to happen and every successful team has to endure its fair share of lucky one-nils.
An acceptable hand for me would be to swap the big wins for narrow successes at places like Yeovil and Carlisle and to increase the number of occasions that we can secure our favourite winning result from last season of three-one.
So, in answer to the realism or optimism question, for me, promotion is actually both realistic and expected. Last season’s champions have proved that even the biggest of defeats at home to Plymouth on 8th August doesn’t necessarily mean failure. Please let’s not do it that way though!
Disclimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.