Ruaidhri Higgins knows it’s a big season for Coleraine.
The last campaign was something of a disappointment for the Bannsiders.
A top six challenge fizzled out at the turn of the year, and an Irish Cup exit at the hands of Warrenpoint Town left many frustrated figures at The Showgrounds.
None more so than boss Oran Kearney.
The 37-year-old has assembled a talented young squad, which he allows to go and express themselves.
As one of the more experienced players in the squad Higgins knows it’s time the players, both young and old, started to repay that trust.
“I’ve been very impressed with the young players, they seem to be really stepping up to the mark now and taking responsibility,” he said.
“When you come into senior football you have to do that, you have to become a man very quickly.
“I can see the change in them already so far in pre-season and hopefully that is a sign of things to come and we can all keep pushing in the one direction, and give Oran what he deserves.
“He’s a real football man and has great ideas on the game, he lets people go and express themselves, which not every manager does.
“It’s up to us players now to go out and reward him for the trust he puts in us.”
It’s Glentoran up first for the Bannsiders tomorrow.
Eddie Patterson’s side finished the season on a high winning the Irish Cup.
And they’ve followed that up with the Charity Shield victory at the weekend.
Higgins knows it will be a tough game at home to the Glens, but it’s one he is relishing.
“It’s the perfect game for us to start with to be honest,” said the former Dundalk man.
“No disrespect to any team but if the first game was away from home to a place where you maybe wouldn’t get a big crowd it would be different.
“In saying that though you really shouldn’t have to get up for the first game.
“It does add more spice to it though that the Glens are here first day of the season and I’m sure they will bring a decent support.
“There’s a real excitement about the place. When I came in last January we were mid-table and we weren’t really playing for anything.
“The first three or four fixtures for us are really mouthwatering, but that’s what you want. You want everyone going in with a real spring in their step excited about what is coming up.
“It’s important though that we get off to as good a start as possible as it can really kick you on.
“I know what’s in the dressing room, there’s an awful lot of quality in there, we have to stick together no matter what happens and get off to a good start.”
Kearney has had a busy summer bringing in Sammy Morrow, Rodney Brown, James McLaughlin and Garth Falconer.
He is also looking forward to the opener.
“All you can hope for with the opening game is that it’s at home,” he said. “We’ve got that and it’s against a big team which suits us perfectly.
“As a player I relished these games and I know our guys do too, the adrenalin will certainly be pumping.
“Hopefully we’ll have a big crowd and a great atmosphere, and get off to the
“We want to get the feelgood factor back and we will be working hard to create that.
“The fans also have a big part to play and I’d ask them to get behind us from the start and and help drive us on this season.”