ZAT Knight is confident Wanderers can survive the heat of battle in tomorrow’s Lancashire derby at Burnley.
The Championship opener will be intense with manager Owen Coyle and two of his players heading back to their old stomping ground of Turf Moor.
But big defender Knight believes the team has the mental strength and footballing ability to pass a stern first test.
He appreciates much of the hype will be about Coyle and ex-Clarets Chris Eagles and Tyrone Mears but is keeping his own focus on a positive start to life in the second tier.
Knight said: “It’s going to be a big occasion for the gaffer.
“Their fans might be gloating a bit because he left them and now is in the same league.
“We have to put all those things aside because we have a job to do as a team.
“Since the gaffer has been here, I have played in every game against Burnley. It’s a feisty one but apart from Chris Eagles and Tyrone, the rest of the boys want to go into it as a normal game.”
The 32-year-old, who penned a new two-year contract at the Reebok Stadium this summer, is relishing a return to competitive action after a pre-season he
feels has gone well personally.
Arguably his most enjoyable display came in the home draw against Barcelona B, but he knows a typical derby clash this weekend is an entirely different proposition.
Knight added: “I really enjoyed the Barcelona game; you always enjoy playing against good players.
“I think it’s part of pre-season that you peak at the end and are ready to go into the season. The games against Barcelona and Burnley are worlds apart.
“Football-wise it will be different – I didn’t head the ball once against Barcelona. If I do start at Burnley, that won’t be the same. But when we do get the ball, we want to try and play our
football because we have been playing some good stuff at times.
“Hopefully, we can carry that on in the Burnley game because I do feel if we play our football, we can beat any team in the league.
“On paper, I think we have the best team in the league.
“The Championship is more about your mind frame. You are going to play your good teams like Blackburn and Wolves who came down with us, and then you will go away to places like Peterborough which
will be tough in a different way.
“If we can get the mental state right, we can go up straight away.
“I’m looking forward to the season starting.
“It’s been a long pre-season and we just want to get the ball rolling.”