WHAT started as a dream and with a casual kickaround six months ago will become a reality on Saturday, when Bendigo City FC returns to the soccer pitch for its Men's State League 5 West clash against Maidstone United.
The 3pm clash at Strathfieldsaye will mark the end of a four-season hiatus for the club from senior competition.
City last fielded a team at senior level in the National Premier Leagues Victoria competition in 2017, with the club concentrating its focus on its junior program in the years in between.
Playing coach Greg Thomas' squad will enter their round one clash full of confidence after an impressive pre-season, which started tentatively, but gathered serious momentum following the new year's break.
A series of wins over State League 2 and 4 opposition has stamped Bendigo City as a bit of a dark horse in their division.
Thomas, who is back leading Bendigo City after a stint during the club's NPL days, is champing at the bit for game day to arrive.
"It's been a long pre-season. We first started getting the squad together, just more so as a kick about, in October and then we made it a bit more official from November and started training," he said.
"So it has been a long road, but you do need it when you have a whole bunch of new guys coming together for the first time.
"It has been a long pre-season, but now it's finally here, the guys are raring to go and just want to play."
Reflecting back on the club's nearly six-month journey to MSL 5, Thomas conceded there were some early doubts as to whether the club's bid to get the senior program back up and running would succeed.
"Until we got that official go-ahead from Football Victoria, there were always some doubts in the back of your mind," he said.
"Would something happen at the last minute? Would players maybe go back to their BASL club? Or would we struggle for numbers? All those sorts of things.
"But everyone has bought into what we are doing and the vibe around the place is really exciting.
"I know this is the most excited I have been in a long time being involved at a football club.
"The commitment from the players, I can't fault at all."
With a wealth of talent at his disposal, led by acting captains Daniel Purdy and Will Keating, Sam Farr, Luke Burns and exciting youngster Sam Pitson, Thomas is hoping the squad can make an early impact.
"To be brutally honest, we 're not really worried too much about the performance this week, we just want to get the three points," he said.
"There'll be a few nerves from everyone, but we're not putting any pressure on the guys.
"We just want them to go out there and enjoy their football - the rest will take care of itself."
"I know it's an old cliche, but we just need to take each game as it comes.
"We don't know anything about any team, which for me is a good thing. We just need to do what we do and what we can control."
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Purdy, who will be one of two acting captains in the place of injured skipper Aidan Lane, believed going into the season as the new boys on the block was an exciting prospect.
"We played two of the sides in pre-season, so we have a little bit of an idea what they're about, but the other sides are a bit of an unknown quantity," he said.
"Hopefully we can keep on the roll we've been on in the pre-season and get some early results.
"As the newcomers to the league, it's going to be interesting for others sides to suss us out."
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