The anticipation is almost over for Ross County, who have had to wait slightly longer for the new season than most of their Premiership rivals.
The new campaign began in style with Aberdeen’s game against Rangers kicking off a run of four games on Saturday, before champions Celtic unfurled their flag ahead of their opener against Hamilton Accies yesterday.
Followers of County and tonight’s opponents Motherwell have had to sit back as fans of other clubs have delved into the virtual world of supporting their team through live streaming this weekend, but their first taste will come when the two sides meet at Victoria Park tonight.
There will undoubtedly be supporters struggling to comprehend the idea televised football can replace the excitement of the terraces, with no opportunity for fans in the Jail End to suck the ball into the net should the game be finely poised.
The Scottish government’s indicative target of September 14 for the partial return of crowds to matches will offer fans hope, albeit not certainty, that this will only be a short-term inconvenience, with County scheduled to play four home games before that date.
Tonight will be the first chance for anyone outwith the coaching staff to assess what the Staggies will look like under Stuart Kettlewell’s sole leadership this season, after Steven Ferguson moved upstairs into the chief executive role.
The promotion of Richie Brittain to assistant manager, and addition of Don Cowie as first team coach will retain a sense of familiarity, but there will be plenty intrigue over how Kettlewell’s six new signings slot into the team.
The most radical change to the Staggies’ side will be in defence, where the Dingwall men could deploy an almost entirely new backline tonight. Full backs Connor Randall and Carl Tremarco, along with left-sided central defender Alex Iacovitti are the new defensive additions, with Marcus Fraser, Richard Foster and Sean Kelly having departed.
County’s management will have grown tired of being reminded of the fact they had the highest goals against column in the Premiership last term, however the reshuffling in defence indicates that improving on that tally is a major focus of Kettlewell.
One player the Staggies could do with keeping fit following an injury ravaged campaign is Ross Draper, whose presence in protecting the backline is a key asset.
Should they shore up, County have already shown they have the firepower which could make the difference in tight games. Forwards Billy Mckay and Ross Stewart both netted 11 goals last term, with the latter looking to pick up from where he left off before suffering a hamstring injury before the turn of the year.
They will face competition from the likes of Lee Erwin and Oli Shaw, while Michael Gardyne, Josh Mullin and newcomer Regan Charles-Cook will be tasked with supplying the ammunition.
Tonight will provide a long-awaited first glimpse of what to expect this season.