SALFORD CITY joint-manager Bernard Morley is convinced he and Anthony Johnson will thrive under the pressure-cooker atmosphere in National League North next term.
The Ammies would already have been one of the favourites for promotion having finished fourth last season, but the fact they have gone full-time this summer and made a raft of impressive signings has ramped up the expectation levels another notch.
Yet Morley isn’t concerned about what the so-called experts are saying and is eager to confront the challenge head-on.
He told The NLP: “That added pressure of people from outside talking about the signings we’ve made and saying we’ve got a massive budget won’t affect us. People know how we are, and me and Jonno put that pressure on ourselves. The hurt from the play-off semi-finals last season (Salford lost on penalties to FC Halifax) will only drive us on more.
“This season is going to be massive for us to keep the momentum going, and the players we’ve brought in and going full-time can only help us as managers.
“We’ve worked part-time for the last nine years and going full-time is exciting for me and Jonno. We are still looking to bring in one or two, but we are really excited by the squad.
“With last year’s experience and the squad we’re putting together, we feel we can only get better. With the players and resources we’ve got, if we don’t win the league or go up, we will see it as a failure.”
Yet Morley, who has enjoyed two promotions in two-and-a-half years at Salford, admits it isn’t going to be a stroll in the park as another ultra-competitive National League North campaign looms.
“We are going to have a brand new squad and they are going to have to gel and learn what we want,” he said. “Also, I think the league will be tougher than last season.
“Ourselves and York are the two being spoken about but you can’t turn a blind eye to Kidderminster – John Eustace is a good coach. Stockport are making some good signings, Chorley will be there or thereabouts and you’ve also got the north-east clubs, Spennymoor, Blyth and Darlington.
“Boston have made good signings, Alfreton have strengthened and you can’t ignore Telford. There will be at least a dozen sides competing next season.
“What supporters don’t want is someone running away and winning it by 20 points and I don’t think that will happen.”
Among the dozen captures the Ammies have already made, it’s signings of the pedigree of Danny Livesey, Liam Hogan and Gus Mafuta that have made pundits sit up and take notice.
Centre-back Livesey, 32, has arrived from Barrow, while Hogan and Mafuta have joined from Gateshead. Hogan, 28, is also a central defender, while Mafuta, 22, is a highly rated midfielder.
Morley believes the switch to full-time status is helping to attract higher calibre players to Moor Lane.
The former Ramsbottom United co-boss said: “The full-time scenario helps. Lads don’t want to go back to ‘real’ jobs; they want to be full-time footballers and it’s the same for young lads coming out of the league.
“Full-time training and the really good facilities here mean it’s a no-brainer. It could be two steps back to go ten steps forward.”