There will be few – if any – players on the pitch at Molineux tomorrow with more Sky Bet Championship experience than Richard Stearman.
And that is why the versatile Wolves defender will know exactly what lies in store for Wolves against Norwich tomorrow and the 45 games which follow.
But while mindful of the tough nature of the challenges ahead, Stearman – who signed a new two-year contract this summer – is also aware that the hugely competitive nature of the division means that most teams can kick off the season with genuine aspirations of gatecrashing the top six.
So why not, in his words, “shoot for the stars”?
“On a personal note I can’t wait to get going,” says the 26-year-old.
“I’ve played most of my career in the Championship so it is nothing new to me but this is now a new and fresh challenge with this team.
“I just want to try and carry on doing something similar to what I did last year by leading on and off the pitch.
“If I can help the players who haven’t yet got the experience which I’ve been lucky enough to pick up then I’ll be offering that guidance as well.
“So for me it’s aiming for more of the same – to try and pick up from where we left off last year and see where it takes us.
“There are the majority of teams in this division who will think they can go up or be in and around the play offs.
“We’re no different.
“Why not shoot for the stars and see where that takes us?”
This time last year Stearman had been identified by Head Coach Kenny Jackett as a key influence on and off the pitch having spent the final months of the previous campaign helping loan club Ipswich survive as Wolves were relegated.
It was a decision which proved crucial as the Wolverhampton-born defender made 44 appearances in all competitions and helped the team achieve the second league title of his six years at Molineux.
This has been a far more settled summer when it comes to personnel, and Stearman is confident that will work in Wolves’ favour as they look to build on the spirit and momentum of that League One triumph.
“This time last year there we were going into the gaffer’s first season and there had been a lot of changes whereas this year it’s a settled side and we’ve only got a couple of new faces in,” he explains.
“We all know our jobs that little bit better and we’re all familiar with the staff and personnel.
“We are lot stronger coming into the start of the season than we were last season.
“And confidence is high as well.
“I think the lads that came in last season deserve the opportunity to go into the Championship.
“There might be a few lads in the dressing room who haven’t got that Championship experience but the gaffer has shown faith and confidence in them.
“Fingers crossed they can do the business and we can all contribute as a team to a successful season.”
It is one of the most testing starts Wolves could have been handed with the visit of a Canaries side relegated from the Premier League.
But Stearman believes it will prove a decent benchmark as to just how far Wolves can progress on the back of last season.
“We can’t wait to get going now,” he says.
“We’ve got the pre-season out of the way now and we’re raring to get going and get the games underway.
“I think they are all going to big games in this league but it’s a particularly good one to start with and in front of the cameras as well.
“We are really looking forward to it as a benchmark of where we are against a team which has just come down from the Premier League.
“We’ve not faced Norwich for a few years but we know they’re a good side and have got Andrew Surman in there who I played alongside at Wolves.
“They’ve got an array of talent so we know it is going to be a tough test for us but it’s one we are looking forward to.”