ARE we sitting comfortably?

It has been four long months since Ipswich Town last kicked a ball in the Championship as bottom club Doncaster Rovers were just about put to the sword to end a thoroughly underwhelming season.

The Euros and the Olympics have largely meant the ensuing time between then and now has largely flown by - with the odd hairy moment over what exactly was going to go on a back page during the quiet times.

But now football is back, along with the hope and optimism that any new season brings.

In truth, expectations among the Super Blues is arguably at its lowest ebb for some time. In the first time in years, the majority of fans are not expecting a push for the Premier League - and they are happy with that.

Slow and steady progress is the name of the game at Portman Road on the eve of big-spending, promotion favourites Blackburn Rovers visiting tomorrow afternoon.

After too many, tiresome, years of mid-table mediocrity, supporters have become more realistic about what to expect. Most just want to see a top-ten finish, which would ultimately mean at least a flirtation with the play-offs.

They will be patient with Paul Jewell's young guns, knowing that the likes of Luke Hyam, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Massimo Luongo will not be able to perform in every single match.

That is where the next few weeks are so crucial. If Jewell can bring in his much-wanted three players - the right three players - then fans will have more reason to get excited.

If not, then an injury to a Loach, Chambers and Chopra, and Town could be in trouble.

Jewell knows what he has to do - but now he, Marcus Evans and Simon Clegg has to deliver. The waiting is almost over.

"Go out there, enjoy it and play with no fear."

That would be my message to Hyam and Luongo when they go head-to-head with former Premier League duo Danny Murphy and Dickson Etuhu tomorrow.

Looking at simple stats is frightening. Luongo, for all his obvious talent, has just two league cup appearances to his name. Hyam has 21 starts but has spent most of that time still trying to prove his worth to his manager. Both are around 5ft 8ins tall.

Lets start with Etuhu. A 6ft 2ins powerhouse who has made more than 100 top-flight appearances for Sunderland and Fulham before moving to Blackburn for £1.5 million earlier this month -  unsurprisingly insisting that Rovers have the squad to go straight back up to the promised land.

Then there is Murphy. 700 games to his name, costing £7.5 million in transfer fees, in a career that has taken him to Liverpool, Spurs and Fulham before his free transfer to Ewood Park. At 35 years old, the 10-cap England international is almost the same age as Hyam and Luongo combined and has the potential to be one of the top Championship midfielders this season.

As I say, frightening.

But were we not saying the same thing about Lee Bowyer, Jimmy Bullard and Ivar Ingimarsson at this stage last season? And I don't need to remind anyone how that turned out.

Murphy and Etuhu have obviously had impressive careers and achieved good things. But there is no reason for Hyam and Luongo to worry about anyone. Play without fear boys - you will have the majority of 20,000 fans cheering your every move.

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