Andy Peaks’ first aim for the new Southern League Premier Central campaign is the same as any other year – to make sure AFC Rushden & Diamonds secure safety.
But the Diamonds boss admits the “ambitious side” of him wants to see his team pushing for a play-off place.
With the last two seasons being cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Diamonds and every other non-League club will just be hoping for a full season of action before anything else.
Peaks and his players will get their campaign under way tomorrow (Tuesday) night when they take on Banbury United, who drew 1-1 with Stourbridge at the weekend, at Hayden Road.
And when asked what his targets for the season are, Peaks was more than happy to give some insight.
“I have said it from day one, my first aim is to make sure we aren’t in the relegation places at the end of the season,” the Diamonds boss said.
“The first aim is to ensure we have enough points to be safe. Is that being negative? I don’t think so, I think it’s realistic and every club should be thinking that way and taking nothing for granted.
“But the ambitious side of me wants to be in and around the play-offs. Whether that means having a good start, a good finish or a good spell in the middle, that’s where I want us to be.
“I know we have some tough fixtures in front of us but come the latter stages, I want to be in and around it and with 10 games to go I want to see if we are in a position to push towards the play-offs or better.
“There are teams who have splashed the cash but I will worry about my own ship.
“Our money will be there for the whole season so what we offer players will be there, we won’t go back on it. And I hope that will all add up to make us competitive throughout the season.”
The opening clash with Banbury should have a bit of extra spice to it.
Former Diamonds players Sam Brown, Jack Westbrook, Chris Wreh and Ben Acquaye are all set to be part of the Banbury squad that will head to Hayden Road on Tuesday.
Peaks has done his own recruitment this summer with the likes of Sam Warburton, Ben Diamond, Ben Garwood and Nathan Tshikuna all joining the club while a large portion of last season’s squad remain in place.
Their most recent signing was announced today (Monday) with midfielder Claudio Dias joining the club from Nuneaton Borough
And the Diamonds manager is pleased with the work that has been done as the likes of promising youngsters Will Jones, Patrick Casey and Matty Slinn have all been placed on contract.
“Banbury have taken a few of our players over the last few years and I know that’s what happens in football but it certainly adds a bit of needle to it,” Peaks added.
“But I say it every year, you play every team twice over the course of the season and you only get three points for beating a team at the top, a team at the bottom or a team you have a bit of needle with.
“It’s the first game of many and it is a tough one because they have some good players and we know a bit about a few of them.
“We have some serious tests early on in the season and this is the first of them.
“But we feel we are in a better situation now both as a club and as a league to get all our fixtures played. It feels a lot more stable.
“We identified some areas in the squad we needed to strengthen and I feel we have done that. And I am confident that we will have a team that will compete with everyone around us.”