Oldham in the League Cup last Saturday was a disappointing result. The performance sounded disappointing as well, especially defensively. Chris Beech will be looking to put that result to bed at Cambridge tomorrow. You can make excuses to an extent: the fact that they’ve signed so many players and it’s basically a new team.

But for me the most important games of the season are the first eight to 10. They set the pattern. A good start will get the crowds interested and get fans through the turnstiles, whenever they’re allowed back in Brunton Park. It would be nice to think that when fans do come back they’ll be watching a team in the top half. A slow start has the opposite effect. And after struggling in the past few seasons, Carlisle have a bit of work to do to get fans convinced that the team is heading in the right direction.

Cambridge have had a good start, winning at Birmingham in the League Cup and beating Fulham’s under-21s in the EFL Trophy. I think a point would be a good result for Carlisle.

At the time of writing it still looks as if there’ll be some fans allowed at Cambridge. It’s possible that some players perform better without crowds, or with small crowds. But I’d surprised if there were many who felt like that. Fans make football for me. Once they’re behind you it makes such a difference.

The first league game is always the proper start of the season. In your mind as a player you’re thinking “This is for real now.” It doesn’t matter what signings you’ve made or what the bookmakers say. You’re hoping it will be your year. A couple of years ago Accrington weren’t favourites for promotion, with their crowds of less than 2,000. But they won the league. Bolton will be most people’s favourites but I think League Two is more open than usual this year. Carlisle can be optimistic.

For players this is the most exciting, nerve-wracking part of the season. This is what you build up for. You want to get off on a high.

Even if you struggled the previous season, if you start well fans will forget that. And if you’re new to a club you want to become a fans’ favourite.

My debut for West Brom was maybe my best for any club. We were at home to Newcastle. My first cross, Jeff Astle headed it into the net. It went downhill from there: we got beat 2-1.

A memorable first game of the season was in my second spell with Carlisle. We were at Southampton in the red hot summer of 1976. They’d won the FA Cup three months earlier, which was a massive thing for them as a Second Division side. They’d played Liverpool in the Charity Shield the week before. All the attention was on them. But we went down to The Dell and won 2-1. Billy Rafferty scored the first goal of the entire Football League season.

I’m hoping we can be in the top 10 after eight to 10 games. If you’re on the fringes, people will be expecting and hoping you can make that run to the play-offs.

I wish them all the best.