Lee Clark says that the club’s opening four league fixtures will provide a stern but exciting test for his side.
Blues face three teams in that run of games that reached the play-offs last season – Watford, Brighton and Leicester - as well as a trip to buoyant Championship new-boys Yeovil Town.
“It’s always an exciting time of year for players, fans, me and the staff alike because it tells you how close you are to the start of the season,” said the Blues boss.
“It’s dished up a tough start for us because in the first four games we’ve got three teams who competed in the play-offs last season and also newly-promoted Yeovil who are on the crest of a wave at the moment with unbelievable momentum.
“Knowing Gary Johnson (Yeovil manager) and the club that they are they’ll not be coming to just make up the numbers, they’ll be coming to ruffle a few feathers.
“It’s a tough start for us but one that we’re excited about because it means we’re coming up against some of the main teams in the division straightaway, so it’s a good assessment of where we are.”
Clark continued: “A couple of weeks down the line we play a resurgent Ipswich under Mick McCarthy and then the team that will be classed as the main boys in the division because of their finances, QPR.
“It was never going to be easy but that’s the way the division is. It’s not an easy division, it’s an exciting division and there are some big clubs in there with a great history.”
Casting his eye over the remaining fixtures, the only downside he foresaw was fans having to travel away twice between Christmas and New Year.
“I’m a bit disappointed for the fans again with the Christmas period double header away in Lancashire,” he added. “It’s a bit of travelling for them especially over a costly time. It’s never an issue for us as players and staff because we get looked after and go down a day before, but I always look at these fixtures from a fan point of view so I would think they would have preferred that double header at home.”