Glebe Rangers boss Peter Cairns believes that his side has what it takes to make a stunning return to Championship One this season.
The Ballymoney outfit are in fine fettle following a busy pre-season programme, but will have a massive challenge if they are to get into the top two of the keenly contested league.
“The Championship Two has a very, very strong look to it this year. Last season I thought that, on their day, any team, no matter their league standing, could beat anyone else. Everyone is capable and, the change in league format means that teams are under pressure to keep their status in the top ranks.
“The Glebe will have to give a hundred per cent in every game. Every opposition team will have to be respected because realistically we cannot afford to overlook anyone. We will have to treat every match like a cup final.”
The Glebe start off the season on Friday with an encounter against Moyola Park in Castledawson before taking on Lurgan Celtic in the League Cup at the Riada Stadium. They then take on Bangor in an especially tough cup draw.
“That is as hard as you could ask for in your first three games,,” Cairns said, “But that is what the players have been geared for during pre-season. We knew we would have to hit the ground running and I think that we are well poised to do just that.
“I really do think that this could be a classic year for Championship Two and it will test our players to the fullest.
“The opener against Moyola will be tight and tough. We got a 1-1 draw at the Mill Meadow last year but I thought we played some excellent football and should’ve won. Conversely, they probably played better than us at home.
“They’ve really come on leaps and bounds over the last seasons and it is a great game to start off the season as there will be nothing between the teams.
“But if we get the ball down and play our game we’ll be more than a match for anyone.
“I came in (to the managerial role) at Christmas and it was obvious that our first team could compete with anyone on our day, but that we needed to strengthen the squad,” Cairns told the Times Sport. “That was key during the summer and we feel that since starting in May we have brought in quality.
“The new guys should bring us a bit more in attack and have already given us a bit of a boost during pre-season.
“We have assembled a squad of eighteen players now and we may be able to get another couple of players in before the start of the season, but then it will become a bit harder to make sure everyone within the squad is content and in good spirits.
“A big part of this season could be our patience and disapline. We must not get disheartened if a few matches don’t go our way, or if we drop a few points in a row. It is a results-driven game but realistically we will drop points here and there. What we must do is keep positive.
“We train as a club, not as Firsts and Reserves, we train as Glebe. We want all the players to know that if they are playing well they will get the chance to prove themselves.
“Nonetheless, our sights are firmly set on getting the Glebe into the top two. Being realistic that’ll be tough but I’m a firm believer that unless you set your sights on one and two you’ll settle for third or fourth.
“I know the players , like myself, would love to test themselves against Championship One-level opposition every week.
“It is a long season and as long as we are there or thereabouts at Christmas, we’ll be in with a shout of that goal. We just need to be playing good football, show good form, and have a wee bit of luck.”