This weekend may be the first of July but it signals the start of pre-season action for two of the local ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League clubs.
Thrapston Town and Rushden & Higham United start their Division One campaigns in just over four weeks with both teams being part of the UCL Groundhop Weekend.
The Lankies travel to Blackstones on Saturday, August 1 (1.45pm) before Thrapston begin their new season a day later when they take on St Neots Town Saints at Chancery Lane on Sunday, August 2 (10.45am).
Both clubs have already returned for pre-season training and, for Thrapston boss Richard Scott, the countdown towards the new campaign is already well under way as his team prepare for a pre-season clash at Kings Cliffe tomorrow (Saturday).
“We wanted to get a game on for this weekend and, as we are part of the Groundhop event, it was important to start as early as possible,” Scott said.
“We started back on June 20 and once we have played this weekend, it is a pretty full schedule right up until the new season starts for us.
“It’s great to be part of the Groundhop Weekend. It’s an early start on the Sunday but I am sure the lads will be ready.
“There’s the potential for it to be a little money-spinner for the club with the number of people who will hopefully be there to watch it.
“We have had four players leave us, a couple to the league above and a couple who have packed in due to work commitments, but we are actively looking for new signings.”
Over at Hayden Road, Rushden & Higham boss Dale Brunton has managed to retain virtually all of the squad from last season.
They head to Northants Combination side Weldon United for their opening friendly tomorrow and Brunton insists it was always the plan to begin pre-season this early.
“The best way to get lads fit for the new season is to play matches so we are looking forward to this weekend,” he said.
“We have friendlies against AFC Rushden & Diamonds and Kettering Town lined up and we have purposely gone for matches against sides of real quality.
“The big bonus for us is that we haven’t lost any players. We have kept a very good bunch of lads together.
“There are a couple of players coming back from long-term injuries which are like new signings and one or two who were here before and are back and keen to play.
“It’s meant we haven’t had to go out looking for many, which is pleasing.”