Warrington Town boss Shaun Reid says he will thrive off the pressure of being among the favourites to win the league title this season, which gets underway on Saturday.
The Yellows travel to Bamber Bridge, beaten play-off finalists in each of the last two campaigns, who themselves are tipped for promotion this time round.
Last season was a historic one for the club and the town, with Reid’s men reaching the FA Cup second round and also winning the Doodson Sport Cup, their equivalent of the League Cup.
But while it was glory in the cup competitions, Town’s league form faltered, and they eventually finished 9th, having struggled with a huge backlog of fixtures in the New Year.
Reid said: “It was a disappointing year last year league wise. The success in the cups was great for the club and the fans, but this season it’s all about the league.
“I’ve been waiting to start again pretty much since the final.
“I want us to be favourites. I want to be in charge of a winning team and a team that the town can be proud of, rather than a team that’s fighting against relegation.
“There are more expectations and implications to get results, as we know with football it’s a results business.
“It will be an interesting game against Bamber Bridge, because the bookmakers have them as one of the favourites too, but it’s always hard to gauge just where teams are until your maybe 10 games in and things have settled down.”
Reid has retained a healthy portion of last season’s cup heroes, including Craig Robinson, the scorer of the winning goal on that famous night against Exeter City at Cantilever Park.
In have come defenders Ally Brown, Danny McDonnell and Alex McQuade, midfielders Danny Ventre and Chris Young and strikers Ciaran Kilheeney and Steven Gillespie.
“I let a few go and the majority who left were my decision. We wanted to get some solid foundations in the back four, and with three new signings I think we’ve got that,” said Reid.
“Ally is experienced, he’s quick and has had two really good seasons and with him and young Liam Turner we have two excellent right backs.
“O’Donnell is experienced and has played at a higher level, he’s a very dominant player in the Robbo mould with a bit more pace.
“McQuade is someone I’ve liked for a while, he played well against us in the final and every time we’ve played against him he’s stood out. He’s young and has played professionally and wants to get back to that level.”
In midfield, Town have unfortunately lost former Everton academy starlet Gerard Kinsella, though have been able to retain the energetic Nathan Burke, who spent a few weeks on trial with National League club Southport over the summer.
Reid: “I would have liked to have kept Kinsella but he wanted to get away, and I’m a bit disappointed in how that went.
“Nathan never wanted to leave the club, but he had the chance at Southport and we had to let him chase the dream of getting back in to professional football, which is his ambition. We’re glad to have kept him.
“In terms of signings, Ventre’s record speaks for itself, he’s a winner, experienced and a good leader, and Youngy has been part of the successful Curzon Ashton teams.
“Up front, we’ve brought back Ciaran who the fans are well aware of. He moved away last season for personal reasons and scored a lot of goals at Droylsden. He’s made up to be back and he’s got that winning mentality.
“Gillespie is another striker, a goalscorer with a lot to prove, and he’s looked good in pre-season.”
After Saturday’s trip to Bamber Bridge, Warrington have home games against Radcliffe Borough (Aug 18) and Farsley Celtic (Aug 22) and then an away game at Burscough (Aug 25).
The magic of the FA Cup returns on August 29th, with a trip to Abbey Hey or Worksop Town in the Preliminary Round, before a Bank Holiday Monday visit to Trafford.
It’s the league where the focus will be placed this season, although last season’s headline grabbing exploits have done Reid and Warrington Town no harm.
He added: “When I first came to the club, it was a bit disorganised and things have now moved on a lot.
“It was a massive problem trying to attract players especially from higher leagues. Not now, and with a fully fit squad we should be there or thereabouts.”
Two seasons ago, Warrington enjoyed their highest ever league placing, finishing third in Evo-Stik League Division One North, before losing to Bamber Bridge in the play-offs.
Town were top of the league for a significant portion of that season, with the title eventually being won at a canter by Curzon Ashton, who are now playing in National League North following a second successive promotion.
Fans will undoubtedly remember a game abandoned due to floodlight failure between the two sides, in which Town had led 2-0.
Reid said: “Those are the fine lines. We draw inspiration from the likes of Curzon, and also Fylde.
“When we got the Doodson Sport Cup trophy back to the club, we looked at some of the previous winners, and there are some famous names on there, like Wigan, Macclesfield and Fleetwood.
“You’ve got to have a dream in football, that’s what it’s all about.”
For live updates of all of Warrington Town’s games this season, follow @theyellows on Twitter.