Bray Wanderers are in the starting blocks for the 2018 season, our 34th campaign in the League of Ireland, after a 0-0 pre-season draw with UCD at the Carlisle Grounds last Friday.
Dave Mackey used the game to unveil new goalkeeper Eric Donnelly, who has been drafted in to replace the Cork-bound Peter Cherrie. I wish Peter the best of luck in Cork, he’s been a great servant to Bray over the last few seasons.
Actually I was confused as to whether this will be our 33rd or 34th campaign. The seasons used to run through the winter from when we joined the League in 1985/86 until 2002/03  and summer soccer thereafter. I started my summer-soccer count at the 2004 season, but actually the first one was 2003, so 2018 will be our 16th summer-soccer season and 34th overall [and our 14th consecutive one in the Premier Division].
The 2002/03 season – which resulted in Bray’s most recent relegation – was a kind of truncated winter season, running from July 2002 to January 2003. A short break ensued before the 2003 campaign got underway, running from April to November. I suppose you could say that 02/03 and 2003 were hybrid seasons, a summery winter season followed by a wintery summer season bridging the gap between the traditional winter seasons and the current summer seasons. Perhaps I’m mixing my metaphors!
Before a ball was even kicked on Friday the conspiracy theorists were rounding on Bray, saying that there were problems between the club and the FAI. It all seemed to stem from the team-sheet listing Bray’s players [apart from Kevin Lynch, Darragh Noone and Aaron Greene, who are on 2-year contracts] as ‘trialists’, even though they had all been unveiled as additions to the squad. Just red tape, nothing else. The FAI haven’t approved the registrations yet but they will. They’ll give us our licence too. ‘’Don’t Panic!’’, as Corporal Jones used to say in Dad’s Army.
They’ve started showing the league table for 2018 on some websites and feeds. I have to admit I like the look of it. Second place behind Bohs and ahead of Cork. I could get used to this! Obviously this is just an alphabetical listing, but it is still a bit misleading. In the old days they waited until 3 or 4 games in before putting up the tables.
I’m waiting for all the pundits and tipsters to start sharing their wisdom about how the 2018 campaign will pan out. Actually I don’t need to wait, I know what it will be. Bray for relegation. It’s become a cliché at this stage, whether it is the guys on the couch on Soccer Republic or the keyboard warriors in the dailies.
Perhaps if they predict Bray to win the title we might go down, but so long as they keep sending us down before a ball is kicked we’ll insists on staying up. Just to spite them.