YOU kind of get the feeling the Queensland Lions are back where they belong.
Because from 2002 to 2004 the Richlands-based side dominated the Premier League, clinching three straight titles before withdrawing from the senior men's competition to put all their energy into earning a place in the national A-League competition.
They were the club everyone envied, but also the club every player wanted to play for.
The Lions earned the right to return to the top-flight competition after being crowned Premier Division 1 champions last year.
After a tough rebuilding phase, which provided plenty of experience for their plethora of young talents, coach Graham Ross has got Luxury Paints Stadium once again abuzz with Premier League fever.
Ross believed this month's annual Silver Boot pre-season competition would be the start of a new era for the club, as they gear up for their first season back in the Premier League since 2004.
"With the season starting in early February, the Silver Boot is our pre-season so all the games will be vital to our preparations," he said.
"We will be trialling and rotating a few players to try and find the right combinations, but we will be taking every game seriously."
The Silver Boot, which is hosted by the Lions, is a month-long competition contested by Premier League, Premier Division 1 and Queensland State League teams.
Unlike previous years, plenty of eyes will be fixed on the Lions to see how well they stack up against their Premier League counterparts, including the University of Queensland, who they play in their tournament opener on Sunday, January 22.
Ross revealed almost all of last year's squad had returned to the club for 2012.
And while last year's top goal scorer Greg Thomas is expected to play fewer minutes after agreeing to be the side's assistant coach, Ross has managed to fill his void with the signing of former Brisbane Strikers National Soccer League player Russell Miner.
The 31-year-old will return home after four seasons with England club Bedfont Town and Ross expects the gun striker to be a great leader for the young Lions players.
"I like to have experience down the spine and good young talent around them," he said.
"We were looking for a goal scorer with a high level of experience especially after Greg Thoms scored a lot of goals last season so it was important to find someone like Russell who could score a lot of goals."
Ross admitted being competitive in a Premier League promotion year is hard, but said expectations were running high.
"We want to come back with a bang and have a good shot at it (the title)," he said.
"We're not coming in to make up the numbers."
The 2012 Silver Boot kicks off on Tuesday, January 17, with the grand final to be played on Sunday, February 12.
For the full draw and more information visit www.qldlionsfc.com.au
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