THE most eagerly-awaited football season in living memory is here.

That may sound dramatic, but after 17 months of suspensions, empty grounds and national lockdowns everything is starting to feel normal again.

The impact of Covid on Oxford United’s pre-season preparations suggests the virus will continue to affect football, as with all aspects of normal life, but tomorrow’s trip to Cambridge United seems like a new beginning.

U’s supporters would surely have sold out the away end anyway, but the last week or so has pushed the excitement up a notch.

Season-long loans for Gavin Whyte and Nathan Holland have raised expectations, while Jordan Thorniley’s arrival ensures United start the campaign with a strong back four for this level.

Karl Robinson: I've never been so excited going into a season

The three signings have filled obvious holes in the squad, although another full-back and a second defensive midfielder would also be welcome.

United look capable of reaching the Sky Bet League One play-offs for a third straight year, despite the strength of the division this season.

The level of competition makes it tough to predict where the U’s will end up, but the minimum expectation should be a sustained challenge for the top six.

Like Karl Robinson said last year, if you finish seventh with 74 points you can only take your hat off to those above you.

Off the pitch, it is a big season for the club.

The ownership needs to be sorted sooner rather than later and after months of frustratingly little progress it seems like United’s Indonesian investors are getting closer to securing their purchase of the majority stake.

Once that goes through, questions about the stadium will follow – as we all know, this is key to the club’s long-term success.

For now, though, all eyes are on Cambridge and what will be a very special day.

Football is back.