Welcome to our last home game of 2017 against table-topping Wigan Athletic. We welcome their players, officials and loyal fans who have braved the M6 on traditionally the day, being so close to Christmas, when many supporters choose to stay at home.
We are also delighted to welcome back Chey Dunkley, who was a stalwart of our progress over the previous two seasons. Chey is a first-class individual as well as a talented centre-back and we are delighted that his career goes from strength to strength, with the likelihood of Championship football next season.
This is a time of year for reflection and thinking of others, especially those less fortunate than the majority of us.
On this theme, the players and staff visited the Children’s Hospital last week and I think enjoyed it every bit as much as the kids! Many remarked on the courage of the children and the amazing job done by all staff at the hospital.
The club is also supporting our wounded ex-military this Christmas (see www.WalkingHomeForChristmas.com). Hats are available in the bar - please support this fantastic charity which offers so much tangible support for the forgotten ex-servicemen and women and helps them get their lives back on track.
I am also delighted that Chris Hackett has been appointed as Youth Team Coach. Chris is well known to many fans, having played over 140 games for the club from 2000 to 2006, and we all wish him well in the new role. We also expect to announce the new Head of Academy in the next week or so.
Operationally, Niall McWilliams has settled in well and there is a real buzz around the office. One aspiration that Niall has put at the top of his agenda is to capture on a more regular basis the ‘lost’ 25,000 fans who come to Wembley but are not regular attenders during the season. I am sure we all support this as a packed Kassam really is special.
On the pitch, we remain within touching distance of the play-offs and, with players returning from injury and the target of bringing in two or three players to strengthen the squad during the January window, we should be optimistic about a strong second half to the season.
Two highlights of recent games were Josh Ruffels’ brilliant winner against Doncaster (96th minute goals are always sweeter!) and Malachi Napa coming on against Gillingham and immediately looking the part.
Last week, we gained a point in a resilient performance at Rochdale. Our usual fluidity was absent on a challenging pitch but our doggedness, desire and preparedness to put bodies on the line, especially the back four, was uplifting.
Today will be a different game. Everyone I have spoken to across other League 1 clubs think Wigan are the best side in the division. They play good football, which should suit us, and will be a good test of our progress. Whatever the result, it should be an exciting game.
Finally, I would like to wish all supporters and everyone connected with the club a very merry Christmas and send my best wishes for 2018.
You can buy the complete online version of the programme from www.matchdayfix.com/oufc