Burton & Peschisolido journey into the unknown
The start of a new season is always a special time; one of new beginnings, when the sense of optimism that took root and flourished over the summer months is still firmly intact.
Emotions will be particularly strong at New Meadow as last season's play-off losers Shrewsbury host Burton Albion.
Not only will the fixture be the first Football League match contested by Burton in their 59-year history but it will also be the first meaningful game of Paul Peschisolido's managerial career.
It will not be an easy task, especially given that he has to follow in the footsteps of Nigel Clough, a man who is regarded in the very highest esteem in Burton after his successful decade in charge of the club.
However, Peschisolido's arrival as a Football League manager has been years in the making. During the final years of a playing career that took the amiable and thoughtful Canadian to 10 different English clubs, he had started to pay particular attention to the style of the different managers he worked under as well as the techniques and training-ground methods they employed.
Peschisolido was starting to think about the future and, after hanging up his boots, advanced his education by spending last season as assistant to former team-mate Jeff Kenna at Irish league club St Patrick's Athletic.
"It was a good learning curve," explained Peschisolido. "I realised how much I enjoyed working with players on the training pitch and that management was definitely for me."
At the end of last season the 38-year-old heard that Burton were looking for a manager. He contacted close friend Neil Warnock, who managed the Brewers in the early 1980s and thus knew Albion chairman Ben Robinson.
Crystal Palace boss Warnock spoke in glowing terms about Robinson, a local businessman and lifelong Burton fan, who saw his first game as an eight-year-old, and put the two men in touch.
"One chat led to another, then another and then another and the next thing I knew I had been offered the job," Peschisolido told me. "It was kind of unexpected but a pleasant surprise."
Peschisolido walked into a club that was in some senses going through a period of transition as they prepared for life in the Football League.
Clough had presided over a decade of steady progression that saw the Brewers lead the Blue Square Premier by 13 points when he left for Derby in January. Burton brought in Roy McFarland as his replacement and although form tailed off the club clinched promotion on the final day of the season despite losing to Torquay. McFarland decided he did not want the role on a permanent basis.
When I spoke to Clough recently he argued that not enough had been made of the fact that Burton had managed to win promotion while operating as a part-time club. Skipper Darren Stride, for example, was not only the club's skipper and record appearance holder but was a building contractor.
Since promotion, however, the Brewers have gone full time and the new manager believes that his squad are relishing training every day rather than twice a week.
"We have players who have been desperate for this chance and let me assure you that it looks that way in training," said Peschisolido, who played under the likes of Warnock, Kevin Keegan, Billy Davies, George Burley and Jean Tigana.
Peschisolido has brought in experienced players such as Paul Boertien, Richard Walker and Guy Branston but has also pledged to stand by the team that won promotion. But his reasoning is not based on sentiment.
"I can remember sometimes that you get promoted and the players who did that are left behind, the service they have given is quickly forgotten and they are replaced," he said. "Sometimes I think that continuity is better."
During his decade in charge Clough drilled into his side a style of play that looked to get the ball out to wingers, who in turn delivered plenty of service to the front two.
And Peschisolido, married to Birmingham City managing director Karren Brady, is determined to ensure that Burton continue to try to entertain with football that is pleasing on the eye.
"There will be games when you have to go direct but I want to get the ball down," he said. "I believe in possession football, good movement and playing with a high, high tempo. Everything we do on the training pitch is very high tempo."
The new manager has not been afraid to tap into the knowledge of his predecessors, speaking to both Clough and McFarland within 24 hours of his appointment.
"Nigel has a piece of them in his heart and has been very helpful. I have picked his brains with regard to players and what to expect, taken advice on how to move forward," added Peschisolido, who took his players paintballing as part of his team's pre-season preparations.
Peschisolido is also far from alone in his adventure, having brought in Gary Rowett as his assistant.
Rowett, who finished his playing career with the Brewers, is a keen student of the game. He also applied for the managerial role at the Pirelli Stadium and Peschisolido regards himself as fortunate to have him on board.
It is probably just as well that the manager has an able number two as Peschisolido admits to being surprised at some of the tasks that he has found himself undertaking.
"Training sessions, the food eaten afterwards, the travel arrangements, numbers for the training kit - we have to organise everything. It is time consuming but fantastic," said Peschisolido.
"People say you miss the playing side of things but this is fantastic. I think I almost enjoy this more than being a footballer."
Of course the enjoyment of Burton and Peschisolido's adventure will to an extent be determined by results. Losing, after all, is rarely much fun.
I have heard Robinson describe the forthcoming season as one in which he hopes Burton will steadily familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and take a good look at what is required at their new level.
Last year Exeter did more than take a look, securing back-to-back promotions on the final day of last season - something that is not lost on Peschisolido.
"It can be done," he said. "An achievement will be to stay in the league but we believe we can surprise a few along the way."