Paul Cox believes everyone at Kettering Town have returned for pre-season with renewed focus as the build-up to the new National League North season begins.
The Poppies had their first run out of the summer on Tuesday night as a mixed squad of first-team players, trialists and youngsters secured a 1-0 win at Cogenhoe United.
A Kettering XI make the trip to Harborough Town tomorrow (Thursday) night and while the scheduled friendly at Ely City on Saturday is now off due to Covid-19 cases in the Ely camp, the Poppies are due to host league rivals Brackley Town in the Newlands Shield next Tuesday evening.
Cox admits he wants to get his squad finalised and settled as quickly as possible.
But he insists he is willing to wait for the right players to become available with his main aim for the current campaign being to make his team “ultra competitive” at Step 2.
“It’s what the players need now,” the Poppies boss said.
“They have clearly looked after themselves, the level of fitness has been excellent.
“But now, and this is why we have got three games in quick succession, they need football, football, football.
“I have to heap loads of praise on everyone at the club, not just the players, because everyone has reported back a lot more focused and a lot more structured.
“The aim is to get a settled squad and system in place as soon as possible. There will be a number of players coming into the squad still.
“I have approached things differently this year. I will be patient for a certain number of players because we have some good young lads but we need some experience in there from players who have an understanding of the level we are at.
“It’s something we missed last season. We have some good players who will go on and play at a higher level but sometimes they need guidance.
“I have a five-year plan, the owner and chairman have told me that, but realistically if you lose 10 games in a row then you are gone.
“I would love to be able to see the club into the National League and the Football League and there is this idea in football now that we need to do everything yesterday.
“We aren’t going to do that at this club, we have got to build it and build the infrastructure while winning football matches. That’s the challenge. It will take time but I am looking forward to it.
“The staff are excited, the players look more focused than I have ever seen them but there will still be more coming in to make sure we are ultra competitive next season.”
Cox, meanwhile, he can’t wait to see the fans back at Latimer Park for next Tuesday’s friendly with league rivals Brackley with the fixture coming 24 hours after the vast majority of remaining Covid-19 restrictions are lifted across the country.
“We have missed the fans, all football clubs and players have missed having them in the grounds,” the Kettering manager added.
“I, like everyone, hope we can just get back to normal so that everyone can do what they want to do and, for our fans, that means coming to watch us.
“I am excited to see them back next week and I am excited about what lies ahead for us.”