Gary Smith says Tamworth will be doing everything in their power to make sure they can call themselves at National League club again next season.
The Lambs are set to kick-off their latest Southern League Premier Central campaign against Royston Town this Saturday.
The pandemic has disrupted the past two seasons, with one previous campaign being declared ‘null-and-void’ when Tamworth were second with three games in hand on leaders Peterborough Sports.
Some bookmakers have Tamworth down as favourites to land the elusive title this time around.
And as Smith gears up his side to start all over again, he admits he doesn’t listen to the odds – but he’s reassuring fans they can still hope to see the club challenging at the right end of the table.
“I don’t listen to odds to be honest; they mean nothing to me,” Smith said.
“That has got nothing to do with us as a football club and we’ll crack on as a football club and just try and win as many games as we can. I’m never going to come out and say we’re going to win the league but what I will do is say that we’ll give it a good shot and see where we end up.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge of this season. We want to be there or thereabouts without a shadow of a doubt.
“We want to be in the mix for the title or promotion through the play-offs – of course we do. That’s what we’re going to try and achieve. Let the competition begin, we’re desperate to get going again.”
Smith won’t be in the dugout for the opening day. Instead, he’ll be sat in the stands due to a suspension carried over from last season.
In a strange twist of fate, Tamworth’s last competitive game – all the way back in December – was against Saturday’s opponents Royston Town.
After waiting 244 days for another competitive game of football, Smith believes they’re starting in the best possible way.
“I’m looking forward to being back. For our first game of the season, they don’t come much bigger in our division than Royston Town,” he said.
“It’s a fantastic opener for us and for them too. People ask me about the fixtures and to be honest, I’m quite happy to be playing the bigger sides earlier on in the season.
“If you want to win things, you’ve got to beat the best teams around you and compete with them. It can give us a chance to set our stall out but on the other hand, I’m not going to be thinking too much into it regardless of the result because we’ll still have another 41 games to go after it.
“We’ll have another 41 cup finals after this game so how we do on Saturday won’t make or break our season.”
Pre-season has been tricky for Tamworth. Injuries, players missing, and games cancelled have upset their rhythm.
Last week’s defeat to Chesterfield was their last chance to gain match fitness for the coming campaign.
If Smith was going to file a school-style report card for the Lambs’ warm-up games, he reckons it would probably say ‘work to do’.
“In the last week or two we have started to look like the sort of squad we want to assemble,” he said.
“I still think it’s a work in progress in terms of the new players getting a full understanding of the way we want to play. They’re still getting used to their surroundings and their new teammates.
“But we are happy with the way we’re pushing on and we’re looking much more solid now, it’s been a difficult pre-season, but we’ve managed to scrimp and scrape our way through it and now all eyes are on, first training this week, and then the big day on Saturday.”