Manager Keith Curle admitted at his first press conference of the new season that the disappointment of the play-off defeat at Exeter in May was still fresh in his mind as he continues to prepare his squad for the new campaign.
“I’m not over what happened at the end of last season,” he said. “I wanted to get promoted and I thought we had the squad and the capability within it to achieve that, particularly with the way we started the season.
“We didn’t quite have enough in the end but we took a very good football club in Exeter right to the wire. There are a lot of positives to take from what happened last year. There’s a unity growing and we’ve got a spine of a team and a spine of a football club now.
“People have said we haven’t been as busy in the transfer market this year, but we haven’t needed to be. We needed more competition with certain dynamics and I think we’ve added that. There is still a little bit of room for more additions to be made as well, which is a good place to be.”
“Looking back to that away game at Exeter, the reason why I made the players absorb the atmosphere from the Exeter dressing room after the game was because I want this club to be successful,” he explained. “I wanted the players who were there that night to witness it first hand and to use the experience of missing out as a driving force. There are still players here now who I think I can get a little bit more out of.
“Our overall driving force is that we want to improve year on year. We’ve managed that, reaching sixth place last season having gone from twentieth two years before, so the easy thing to do would be to say there’s obvious natural progression. To keep that momentum going a lot of hard work needs to be done. That’s the aim and that’s the target.
“We want to bring success to this football club and this city and the only way to do that is to make sure we’re pushing ourselves on. I’m happy with how our dressing room is shaping up but I always want more players to add to the mix.
“I’ll keep demanding more from those we have in the building but I’ll also keep pushing the stakeholders to give me more resources so that we can keep adding and improving. The club knows that when I stop asking for more it’s because we’re at the top of the tree and sitting in the upper reaches of the Championship.
"In the mean time I need to keep pushing boundaries and asking for more money so that we can keep adding the quality we need to the squad. I’m not scared to keep asking but I’m also big enough to understand when there isn’t anything else available. When that’s the case you have to accept it.”
Having added three new faces over the course of the last week, he also revealed that steps have been taken to bring in another striker with the club due to develop the initial talks already held with his parent club over the coming days.
“We’re very pleased with the players we’ve brought in because they’ve added dynamics which we felt were lacking,” he told us. “There are just a few more finishing touches which we’re looking to bring in.
“We are looking at adding a big striker, that’s something we’ve talked about, because it does give you a Plan B within this division. A target man can give you territorial advantage and there are some teams who just don’t like playing against them.
We’ve gone from talking to a centre forward and his representatives to getting to the point where the club is making contact to see if there is any business to be done ...
“We’ve gone from talking to a centre forward and his representatives to getting to the point where the club is making contact to see if there is any business to be done. We aren’t quite at the point where we’ve got the player in the building but there is a definite target that we’re looking at.
“We’re always on the look-out for players in all positions and there will be players out there who were in the plans for pre-season but who have now dropped out of favour, for whatever reason. It’s an ever-changing cycle and we need to be available to be reactive so that we can improve the squad should the right opportunity to do so come along.”
At the other end of the field the United boss also admitted that he wants to see a much tighter back line with fewer goals conceded along the way.
“I think it was abundantly clear to everyone last year that we scored enough goals but we conceded too many,” he commented. “We gained a substantial amount of points but it could have been more.
“We need to turn some of the defeats into draws and some of the draws into wins. The players have been set the collective targets of scoring more goals, keeping more clean sheets and cutting the number of goals we concede, particularly from unforced errors and mistakes.
“We know there are goals in the building but we need to foster a defensive mentality whereby we need to stop shots, crosses and individual errors. We know we’ve had frailties at the back but the way I want to play you might even say that we didn’t score enough goals.
“If teams are scoring against us we need to score more goals than them. I am a defender and I do have a defensive mentality, but within that I like scoring goals. I want to play entertaining and attractive football.
“We’ve got some new personnel coming in and there are personnel in the building who I think I can be slightly creative with in terms of formations and how we play. We’re always going to get individual errors with League Two players. Some of the goals we conceded last season were absolute howlers - but what training session can I put on to stop somebody slipping over, or something like that?”
“We’re potentially signing a centre back today which will make people look at Mark Ellis and Shaun Brisley and ask where their future lies,” he added. “All I will say is that everyone has a clean slate.
“The teams haven’t been picked for pre-season or for the start of the season yet. Mark and Shaun have both come back in very good condition and now it’s about expressing themselves and earning a place in my team.
“They’re our players and I brought them here because I feel they can help us to get to where we need to be. I know Forest Green were very appreciative of Mark’s contribution there last season but there has been no further contact from them, and that’s fine by me.”