Brady Stone has conceded that survival is the name of the game for his Ely City side during the 2016-17 Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division, writes Liam Apicella.
The Robins sealed a return to step five thanks to their 86-point haul in last season’s First Division, which left them just three shy of champions Wivenhoe Town.
It is a far cry from 12 months ago when the mood around the Unwin Ground was sombre, with Stone’s men having been relegated after recording just five victories all term.
A number of that squad remain in situ, yet the manager is confident that there is no mental scarring ahead of their opening game against Mildenhall on Tuesday night.
“After going down the year before, this season is all about staying up,” said Stone.
“We are a year ahead of our plan, so anything above preserving our status would be brilliant.
“Hopefully we can have a run in one of the cups and cause a few upsets along the way.
“The players we wanted to keep from the relegation year have stayed and that is a big positive.
“It was a steep learning curve for the players and myself, so hopefully we can show we have improved.”
While the signing of striker George Darling from neighbours Soham has been the headline addition, Stone has not neglected his defence.
During their relegation season, Ely shipped a league-high 106 goals from only 38 outings.
Oliver Brookes and Tom Williams have been recruited from Fulbourn and Burwell respectively, and Stone expects both to play a key role in making his team difficult to beat.
“They are both a little inexperienced, but at the same time are solid defenders that will do well at this level,” added the boss.
“The difference between the divisions is pretty big and we need to be able to cope with that.
“We will not be able to go to the likes of Stanway or Felixstowe and dominate the ball.
“It comes down to being more solid. Ollie and Tom will help with that.”