Jamal Campbell-Ryce, Sheffield United’s new flying winger, is preparing to see some familiar faces next season - as he prepares to face SIX of his former clubs.
And the first meeting will come on the season’s opening day after United’s 2014/15 SkyBet League One fixture list, which was released yesterday morning, pitched them against Bristol City at Bramall Lane on Saturday, August 9.
That meeting with City, where Campbell-Ryce enjoyed a two-year spell between 2010 and 2012, has been chosen for coverage on Sky Sports, and will now kick off at 12.15pm.
United’s first derby of the season is on October 4 against Chesterfield - another of Campbell-Ryce’s old clubs. The 31-year-old also had a successful spell at Barnsley - and former United chief Danny Wilson will return to Bramall Lane with the Reds on November 1.
“There will be some cracking derby games next season,” London-born Campbell-Ryce said.
“And to be honest, I enjoy them - even though I usually get a lot of abuse!
“I thrive on games like that so it is going to be really good to have so many massive games against local teams.
“There will be so much passion with most games played in front of full houses, and every professional thrives on that.”
United - who, under the tutelage of manager Nigel Clough, recovered from relegation candidates to finish seventh last season, losing just one of their final 11 games - will start this season as strong favourites to end their three-season exile in League One.
Campbell-Ryce is one of six summer signings sanctioned as Clough continues his overhaul of United’s playing staff, with Chris Porter also retained on fresh terms alongside Ben Davies, Chris Basham, Andy Butler, Marc McNulty and James Wallace.
“We are a big club in this division so people want to beat us anyway,” Campbell-Ryce continued.
“I know that from being at other clubs.
“Opposition teams come here and park the bus. I have been here with teams whose managers have been so cautious.
“They have to be, because this is a big club with a fantastic stadium where the fans get right behind the team.
“When the fixtures come out, everyone looks for when they play Sheffield United.
“Everyone wants to beat the biggest team. But to get promoted you have to be able to deal with that.”
Clough, who is prepared to let in-demand Harry Maguire enter the final year of his contract if United do not receive a suitable bid, is expected to now press ahead with plans to sign a new striker, with Barnsley’s Chris O’Grady featuring on a “long list” of targets.
But it is in the engine room of midfield where Clough feels his side may have an advantage next term.
“Central midfield is so important, because it can hold everything else together,” he said.
“If you dominate in there, then the chances are, you are going to have a good game. It’s an area that everyone wants to control.”