Portadown enter another Bluefin Sport Championship campaign as the biggest name within the Irish League’s second tier - but with manager Matthew Tipton preaching collective strength over any individual spotlight.
Previous campaigns outside the senior stage have centred on the pressure for promotion weighed down by past history.
That imbalance beween expectation and execution has cost the club, resulting in back-to-back setbacks on the final stages of each prior season following relegation.
Tipton’s summer analysis centred on enhancing the squad’s strength, both physically and mentally, with a view to sharing the responsibility across the group and avoiding the demand for individual excellence in place of group gains.
“We will obviously know more after the opening games, starting this weekend with a derby date at Loughgall,” said Tipton. “But in the past we suffered off individual mistakes then too often ended up turning to one or two people to rescue us.
“Over pre-season I’ve seen a group of players celebrating, working and battling together and for each other.
“We have identified players with strong mentalities and real hunger, plus go into the season with the younger lads progressing off another year under their belts and another season to come at a level they know.
“If we can iron out the individual errors and the need for one or two guys to step forward and try to win games then it comes down to working together as one unit.
“In the past maybe the players had the focus too much on playing in a certain way or feeling restricted to certain styles.
“Now it is about finding ways to winning games of football and we’ve utilised a 4-4-2 formation on top of 4-3-3 or three-man defence.
“It’s about options and calling on all the tools together to get points, then use the momentum to build confidence.”
Portadown kick off the promotion push with a short visit to Loughgall on Saturday before successive Shamrock Park home tests - next Tuesday and Saturday respectively with Ballyclare Comrades and Ballinamallard United.
“It should not come down to feeling pressure but we do want the players to embrace the responsibility of the club goals,” said Tipton. “We will find out how successful the preparations have been once out of those early fixtures.
“It may come down to patience to break down the opposition or approaching things in a different way.
“But we have height and a set-piece threat on top of our normal style, plus ability now to find solutions in games.”
Tipton is counting down to the season’s kick-off and hoping the numbers game can add up to a successful promotion push.
Tipton confirmed an addition to the strikers’ club this week with the capture of Scotland-born Gary Millar following three goals in two pre-season appearances during a trial spell.
Sixteen-year-old George Tipton has also put pen to paper on a three-year deal as the manager continues to finetune his squad.
“With extra games this season we want to be able to build momentum and that can come down to having squad depth,” said Tipton. “When I previously won the title at this level with Warrenpoint Town we really managed to build on forward momentum and increase confidence as a result.
“Last season with the Portadown squad it never clicked into that level of consistency and we’ve gone some way to try and address that over the summer.
“Our signings have come in and shown real hunger, which is also going to be key on top of the existing players.
“Every game is going to be a battle but everyone basically can expect a competitive programme so consistency will be vital.
“We’ve worked hard on defensive strength and want to deliver exciting football.”