Brackley Town manager Jon Brady is optimistic that the upcoming campaign will be a much-improved one for his Saints side following last season’s relegation struggles.
Saints were 15 minutes away from being relegated to the Southern League on the final day of the 2014/15 season but turned it around and can now look forward to their third year at National North level.
Harrogate Town are the visitors to St James Park on Saturday for their opening game of the 2015/16 campaign before Brady’s boys head to Nuneaton Town three days later.
Brady endured a challenging year last season as Saints slipped into trouble but he’s managed to lure back three of the club’s most popular players in Tom Winters, Glenn Walker and Steve Diggin.
The number one spot was a concern to Brady so the capture of former Burton Albion keeper Dan Crane from Hednesford Town will be crucial.
Former Leamington and Hednesford midfielder Richard Batchelor will add steel to the centre of the park while Stephan Morley should be a regular starter at left-back.
Up front, Sam Smith and Diggin will add more experience to David Moyo while Owen Story’s return boosted Saints’ survival chances and he’s in from the start this time.
Speaking this week, Brady said: “In terms of the squad, we’re so much further on compared to last season.
“I knew it would be difficult but I didn’t realise the scale of the challenge. There were some very tough times but not once did I want to give up.
“Those tough times have made me stronger, more resilient and more driven. To have turned it around from where we were took some doing but we never stopped believing we could get out of it.
“It’s been a rebuilding process this time and I’ve found it hard to convince players to come here after what happened last season. The better players want to be in contention to win things.
“I have to convince players that we’re going to be at least in the top half of the table.
“We’re having to recreate what we had here two seasons ago and we’ve got to do it a different way again. We instilled a belief in the players towards the end. We have to have that same belief that we had last season with the better players we’ve got this time.
“We’ve kept 11 players from last season, brought three creative players back here and we’ve added five new ones.
“We lost our momentum – the club was on the up for several seasons and then we had setback. Now we’ve got players here who have got plenty of games at the level or the one below under their belt and we’ve got some good up and coming ones, but they’ve got to produce it more consistently.
“The spine of the team is much stronger. We’ve got a lot of pace going forward, the top ten will be a big improvement, if we stay injury-free and put our best team out there each week then who knows what we can achieve.”