MORTON begin a landmark season in the club's long history today as they make the trip south to Stranraer for a Premier Sports Cup group stage opener.

The traditional Fair fortnight still hasn't finished, the Euros final is not played until Sunday and yet here we are on the dawn of a new campaign - it seems to come round faster with each passing year.

Everyone associated with the club could be forgiven for wishing for a couple of weeks more grace, both from an on and off the field perspective.

The plan had been for Ton to kick off under the new ownership of fans' investment group Morton Club Together, but as the Telegraph exclusively revealed this week, that will not happen.

The lawyers are still poring over the details of the takeover with a fine toothcomb and that means the club has not yet changed hands, although to all intents and purposes MCT are already in charge.

With June 1 having been set as the date for the change of regime, the Rae family, MCT and fans will hope that the delays do not persist much longer, as it would be far from ideal for the league campaign to begin with the loose ends still to be tied up.

On the field, preparations have been able to continue largely unhindered save for the loss of one of the planned pre-season friendlies due to a positive coronavirus case in the squad.

Gus MacPherson and his squad have had a tight turnaround after their 2020-21 season went into extra time by virtue of their ninth-placed finish in the Championship.

It left them having to secure their safety through the play-offs, and that they did in emphatic style over Airdrie after something of a scare in the close-run semi-final against Montrose.

Consolidating the club's second tier status from a position of some difficulty saw the club put their faith in MacPherson and number two Andy Millen to carry on in charge on two year contracts.

Since then they have been working hard to assemble a new squad, with other sides in the division enjoying the advantage of being a fortnight ahead of them until their fate was known and the budget could be set.

A whole host of players have departed the club and it's fair to say that some will be missed more than others following what was a slog of a season.

Former Ton boss David Hopkin has taken no fewer than four of his Cappielow signings down to Ayr United, with last term's player of the year Aidan McAdams, Sean McGinty, Markus Fjortoft and Cameron Salkeld all electing to reunite with their old manager down the Clyde coast.

The blow in the rebuild was Stephen McGinn turning down Ton's advances to sign for relegated Kilmarnock, as he would have been an experienced playmaker that they could have built around.

Fellow midfielder Luca Colville has headed back south at the end of his two year stay, widemen Craig McGuffie and Aidan Nesbitt have both dropped down a division to sign for Falkirk, and club stalwart Chris Millar was released to join Lowland League outfit East Kilbride.

Fringe men Rabin Omar and James Wallace only arrived last summer but both were surplus to requirements for some time and have found new clubs, while short term signing Justin Johnson also moved on after barely making an appearance.

The mass exodus will not be replaced on a like-for-like basis in terms of numbers as the manager has made it clear, with plenty justification, that he inherited a needlessly bloated - not to mention unbalanced - squad from his predecessors.

He has decided to go with a smaller pool supplemented by youngsters, looking for quality over quantity - reflected in the fact that only four new players have arrived at the time of writing.

Striker Gozie Ugwu, if he can avoid injury, can hopefully add the firepower Ton so badly lacked last year, goalkeeper Jack Hamilton joins from Dundee with plenty of experience under his belt with both them and Hearts and centre back Alan Lithgow has been recruited from Livingston at the end of several years of success with the West Lothian outfit.

A more familiar face has returned to the fold with Mark Russell re-signing three years after his departure.

It looks an intriguing capture and it will be interesting to see how he has developed as a player since 2018.

MacPherson will obviously not be finished yet in terms of recruitment, with another three or four faces expected to check in.

If Ton have to wait for the right men and for deals to be done then so be it - the key thing is that every penny of the budget is spent wisely, something which has far too often not been the case at Cappielow.

The manager may also utilise his contacts to exploit the loan market, another area where patience may be required as sides further up the foodchain hold on to players until they complete their own wheeling and dealing.

In the meantime, Morton can look to the league cup with the dual purpose of continuing their preparations for the Championship and seeking to progress from a group which also contains Killie, Clyde and East Kilbride.

After this afternoon's opener, the scheduling of the fixtures sees Kilby visiting Cappielow on Tuesday evening.

This double header affords Ton a decent chance to get off to a good start and get a bit of momentum going, a week before the trip to Rugby Park which is likely to determine the section winners.