Portadown striker Mark McAllister believes this season’s Danske Bank Premiership title race will be a “wide open” affair.
Champions Cliftonville will be out to make it three-in-a-row when they kick-off their new campaign against Glentoran on Saturday.
A number of heirs to the throne will be banging on the Reds’ door.
Linfield emerged with plenty of plaudits following some stellar displays in Europe this summer – and boast a hungry new manager in the form of Warren Feeney.
Crusaders also progressed in the Europa League and will be determined to claim a first title since 1997.
Portadown are the last club outside of Belfast to lift the Gibson Cup – way back in 2002.
They kick-off their challenge in three days’ time against McAllister’s former club Linfield at Shamrock Park.
And the 26-year-old striker is relishing the challenge.
“I can’t wait to get started – the league is the bread and butter,” he said.
“I have really enjoyed myself since joining in the summer, and all the lads and the manager have been great.
“We are all determined to do well this season, and if we can keep fit and free from injury then we will make an impact in the league.
“Only time will tell if we can challenge for the title – it might take us some time to gel. But Europe is the target and anything else after that will be a bit of a bonus.
“But I think the title race is wide open this year. Cliftonville don’t have Liam Boyce anymore, and Linfield have a new manager.
“Crusaders are also dangerous and then there are other teams who can take points off each other.”
McAllister was released by Linfield in the summer as part of a mini-cull at Windsor before signing for Portadown.
Michael Gault and Robert Garrett also made the move from south Belfast to Shamrock Park.
“I haven’t a bad word to say about Linfield. I had five great years there and loved every minute of it,” McAllister said.
“It is ironic that we meet each other on the opening day of the season, but it is a great game to get stuck into. I enjoyed my time at Windsor, but I am a Portadown player now and I will be all out to ruin Linfield’s day on Saturday.”