MICK Cooke's most cherished Christmas present could be unwrapped a couple of days early as talks continued this week over an extended contract for the Drogheda United manager.
The popular 61-year-old, who has masterminded the Boynesiders' transformation from perennial strugglers to title contenders, was having further talks with the board on Thursday night about extending his current deal, which runs out at the end of next season.
Ahead of that meeting, Cooke expressed the wish that an agreement could be reached, while Drogheda United are also keen to tie down the RTE Manager of the Year nominee for a longer period and the odds must be on a deal being struck.
'I have a contract for next year and then it's on a rolling basis, where they could agree to get rid of me, so I would like to extend it,' Cooke said.
'In my first couple of years I've enjoyed it immensely, the club is heading in the right way and the squad we have now will be a match for anybody next season. I can't wait for pre-season training to start on January 12th.'
The Airtricity League fixture list was published on Wednesday afternoon and is more or less the reverse of last season's list, which means that Drogheda will have 16 home games and 17 away.
They will also face two away matches and only one home game against Sligo Rovers, St Patrick's, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City and Dundalk which is bound to affect gate receipts at Hunky Dorys Park.
Drogheda's first game of the season is against St Patrick's Athletic at Richmond Park, before they face big-spending promoted club Limerick at home in week two.
Their other matches in March are away to Derry City, home to Bray Wanderers and away to Dundalk, with the only home Louth derby scheduled for Saturday June 8th.
'They were not as good to us as last year,' reflected Cooke. 'We knew we weren't going to get all the big teams twice at home again, but our away record was good last year and with the squad we have they are raring to go already!
'We've Pats away first and with Limerick [first home fixture] I don't know what they're going to be made of. They don't seem to be appointed anyone [as manager], which is strange.
'I have 20 players confirmed already and I would like to think, with the programme of games we have ahead of us, that we could sign another two, but one or two kids are coming home from England in January and I might wait until then.'
Drogheda already have their first preseason friendly organised against an AUL selection on Tuesday January 22nd, and they will also play Athlone Town on Thursday February 7th (to be confirmed), prior to welcoming Portadown to Hunky Dorys Park on Monday February 11th for the first leg of their Setanta Sports Cup first round tie. The Boynesiders have additionally pencilled in a friendly against Longford Town, with venues for all three of the non-competitive games yet to be finalised.
Meanwhile, Cooke says he's looking forward to attending the RTE Sports Awards, while not too hopeful of winning the Manager of the Year award outright.
'It's a great honour to be in such distinguished company. You've got [Donegal manager] Jim McGuinness, Brian Cody and the Cork ladies and Wexford camogie managers, but if I was a betting man I would bet on the boxing coach Billy Walsh.'