IT IS the dream fixture for Jon McLaughlin – but could also turn out to be his ultimate nightmare.

Like the rest of his Burton Albion colleagues, the former Bantams keeper will be eagerly scanning the schedule for the club's first tilt at the third tier.

But when the fixtures are made public at 9am tomorrow, McLaughlin could also be excused for looking at the top of the list through his fingers.

There is one obvious stand-out fixture on the mind of the 27-year-old – the opportunity to play once again at Valley Parade. Just not on the opening day of the season, thanks very much.

A consistent cog in the Brewers' promotion bandwagon, McLaughlin must sit out their historic debut in League One after his red card at Cambridge on the afternoon they sealed the title.

Hence his understandable jitters about what the fixture computer might throw up.

McLaughlin said: "I'm only banned for the one game. I'm just desperately hoping it's not at Valley Parade.

"Going back to Bradford is something to really look forward to. It's going to be great for me to play there again.

"That just sums up the difference in grounds between League One and Two and it will definitely be a special game for me."

McLaughlin's career potentially stood at a crossroads 12 months ago. Kept hanging on by City for a contract that never came, he continued to train with them and was even part of the pre-season tour to Ireland.

Then Burton came knocking on the eve of the campaign – one in which he would eventually play 48 times and miss only one league game.

Gary Rowett, their boss at the time, said the Brewers had made an "excellent, excellent signing". McLaughlin backed up his words with 18 clean sheets.

"It's ended up being a very good move," said McLaughlin, who made 145 appearances with City. "It was quite a late one but has worked out exactly how I wanted.

"It was quite a smooth transition when I signed for Burton because I hadn't been sat at home. I was still training with Bradford and made sure I was involved in pre-season.

"I knew that one way or another I would be ready when the new season came in.

"I've certainly been happy with my form and it was nice to get as many clean sheets as I did. But it does help that we had a pretty dominant season."

Burton rode the blow of Rowett's departure for Birmingham at the end of October and the fanfare that greeted the much-hyped arrival of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

The Dutchman also shared his predecessor's faith in McLaughlin. After sitting out a home game against Carl McHugh's Plymouth during the transition period, the keeper has been ever-present since.

McLaughlin said: "One of Gary Rowett's strengths was that he was a good man manager. He was very honest and open and easy to talk to.

"Hasselbaink is the same. He is a great man to work for. He is definitely hands on but is always very straight with you.

"Obviously him coming in put a little bit of added pressure on us because of the inevitable spotlight. The media are more interested because of the famous name he carries.

"But it also brought a lot of new interest into the club. I think it's been a good thing to put Burton on the map the way he has.

"When Gary Rowett was leaving, it looked like there was going to be plenty of uncertainty about what was going to happen.

"We had a spell when we were slightly below par but that was it. The end of the season showed just how strong we were when we kept on winning to take the title.

"The most important thing for the club was to achieve promotion after getting so close for the last few years. But for us as players, winning the title itself was a big deal."

It also put paid to back-to-back play-off misery.

McLaughlin, of course, played his part two years ago as City gloriously roared back from a first-leg deficit to triumph at a previously indomitable Pirelli Stadium.

Then there was the Wembley heartbreak 13 months ago when a goalkeeping error gifted Fleetwood victory in the final.

So promotion has been a while coming but McLaughlin, who signed a new two-year deal last month, believes Burton are well-equipped to prosper at the next level.

He said: "I certainly don't think we're going to struggle in League One. Hopefully we can go from strength to strength.

"I've always thought of Burton as a really well-run club who do things the right way and I've seen that's the case. It looks like it's going to be the start of something very good for us."

Just not starting in West Yorkshire...