Hemel Town manager Dean Brennan is hoping his side can bounce back strongly from the disappointment of a loss on penalties in the play-offs by making a push for the title this season.
The last time the Tudors lost in that fashion, they returned the following season to win the league title by 10 points.
That was in 2014 when they won the Southern League crown to earn promotion – and Hemel’s boss thinks his side are in an excellent position ahead of the upcoming 2018/19 National League South campaign.
Since 2014, the 39-year-old Irishman has presided over club-best runs in the FA Cup and FA Trophy as well as finishing a creditable fifth in the league last year, despite not having the big budgets of other title rivals.
Brennan, who is being talked of as one of the most promising young managers in the non-league system, is sounding positive ahead of the new season.
He told the Non-League Paper: “We’re in the best financial position we’ve ever been in, we’re happy with our budget, we’re happy with the club off the pitch.
“This is probably the best summer we’ve had recruitment-wise, we haven’t had a large player turnover.”
This off-season Hemel have brought in strikers Steve Cawley and Phil Roberts and brought back forwards Hershel Sanchez-Watt and Charlie Sheringham.
They have also been able to retain team linchpins in the form of skipper Jordan Parkes and last year’s player of the season, keeper Laurie Walker.
Also returning are James Kaloczi, Scott Shulton and Tom Hamblin, who was looking like a player of the season candidate before sustaining a nasty injury in September.
Brennan, alongside assistant boss Stuart Maynard, achieved the mark of 300 matches in charge at Hemel in December last year.
By the time Brennan and Maynard hit 300 games, their five-and-a-half-year reign saw the Tudors use 185 players, win 147 games, draw 66 and lose 87.
Brennan said: “I think we’ve progressed every season on and off the pitch.
“We lost on a lottery in a penalty shoot-out but full credit to Braintree, who went on to be promoted.
“We’ve definitely got to improve on that.
“Every year our wage budget has steadily grown. When we finished 12th a couple of seasons ago, the chairman [Dave Boggins] had a project off-the-pitch so our budget had to stay low. I understood that and the plan was to stabilise and keep the club in the division. With that, last year especially, we’ve got a little bit more of a budget and hopefully we can sustain a title challenge this season or definitely improve.”
He added: “We never spend what we can’t afford to spend. I’ve always lived that way which was installed in me as a kid. We can’t go shopping in Harrods, we have to go to Aldi.”
Brennan has forgoed a holiday this summer as he believes this stage of the season is too important.
Pre-season is now under way and the first friendlies started on Saturday with a 7-0 victory over Bovingdon.
Herschel Sanchez-Watt netted a hat-trick alongside goals from Charlie Sheringham, Phil Roberts, Jordan Parkes and a trialist.